TIME National Correspondent discusses activism, youth in politics


Courtesy of Charlotte Alter

TIME National Correspondent Charlotte Alter sat down with Chicagoland campaign manager Eli Stone to chat about her new book “The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America.”

Kimberly Cruz, Reporter

TIME National Correspondent Charlotte Alter and Chicago-based campaign manager Eli Stone discussed Alter’s book about young politicians who are changing the American political landscape during a Tuesday Family Action Network event.

Family Action Network, a non-profit organization that invites speakers from around the world each year, highlighted Alter’s novel “The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America.”

Lonnie Stonitsch, executive director of Family Action Network, explained that the 2021 speaker series aims to host discussions surrounding education, social justice and human development with the hope of creating a more informed and compassionate community.

Inspired by the increase in millennials in Congress the past few years, Alter examined what events led to the increase and how it might impact the future of politics.

“People tend to form their political values and political identities in reaction to the event they experienced in early adulthood,” Alter said. “I tried to look at the major events of early adulthood for the millennial generation and why millennials seemed to be gravitating toward the issues that they were gravitating towards.”

She mentioned 9/11 and the 2008 Great Recession as some of the many key events that played a large role in the increasing number of millennials practicing civic engagement and becoming more politically active.

Alter highlighted well-known representatives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and U.S. Secretary of Transportation and former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, among others. Alter also said she wanted to feature those who are doing important work but might not be as well-known.

“I think one of the problems with a lot of political coverage these days is this insistence that nobody is newsworthy unless they’re like, ascending to the White House,” Alter said.

Alter referred to Charlotte, North Carolina city council member Braxton Winston as an example of a representative whose only political experience before running for office was his involvement in Black Lives Matter movements after a local police officer shot North Carolina resident Keith Lamont Scott.

“That really triggered a lot of the reckoning around racial justice that we’ve seen in the last couple of years, and he is a really great example of how that activism around systemic racism translates into policymaking on the local level,” she said.

Eli Stone, the event’s moderator, also has extensive campaign experience.

Stone’s passion for change got him involved in politics, he said, on a local level during his freshman year of high school after Donald Trump was elected as president.

“I felt this enormous ‘now what,’” Stone said. “I asked myself, what can I do at a local level to get involved?”

Stone has worked with over 10 campaigns and managed three before the age of 20 — including Evanston’s newly elected mayor, Daniel Bliss. Some candidates did not take him seriously, he said.

But there were others that did.

“What I found is that every candidate that I’ve ended up working for, and really liking, actually took me even more seriously because of my age, and really looked at it as an addition to the team,” Stone said.

He described how his age allowed him to bring in new perspectives that strengthened the campaign manager-to-candidate relationship and increased general local outreach by involving issues youth care about.

After the 2020 election, which had the highest youth voter turnout in history, Stone isn’t the only one wanting to get involved in politics. Alter said she has noticed an increase in engagement occurring around the nation.

“This electorate in 2020 had the highest youth turnout in history and millennials and Gen Z now make up more than 30 percent of the electorate,” Alter said. “Change is coming.”

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