Organizer: Millennial Action Project
Each summer the Millennial Action Project (MAP) hosts the nation's largest bipartisan convening of young legislators at Future Summit. Because we're going virtual for this year's Future Summit, we are able to offer an opportunity for you to get involved in Future Summit!
We are thrilled to announce that Julie Chávez Rodriguez, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, will be joining us on July 30, 2021. Director Julie Chávez Rodriguez's role as director is to engage with State, Local, and Tribal governments for the most effective State and Federal cooperation.
Layla Zaidane is the President & CEO of Millennial Action Project
"Lazy. Entitled. Narcissistic."
Millennials have been called a lot of things, most of them untrue, but there's one term missing from this list: bridge-builders.
In a time when it seems like our partisan identities are hopelessly dividing us, my generation is rejecting the very notion that we can be neatly defined by one-dimensional labels. Sure, there's plenty that we disagree on. But young people, more so than our older counterparts, recognize the benefits of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and the ways in which we benefit from connecting with people who are different from us. And that means that young people hold the key to fixing the political polarization gripping our nation.
Political polarization is the result of career politicians prioritizing short-term action at the cost of meaningful long-term progress. This disproportionately impacts younger generations by leaving long-term fiscal, climate, health, and educational issues unaddressed. For example, Congressional procrastination on immigration reform is at least partly to blame for the slowest U.S. population growth in nearly a century, a reality that has long-term economic implications on things like Social Security funds and tax revenue. Inaction on big issues today will negatively affect Millennials and the generations that follow us throughout our lifetimes.
Yet young people are optimistic about the future of our country, and our own ability to solve these urgent problems. Even better, we are turning that optimism into action. When asked "who will bring about a positive change in your lifetime," young people overwhelmingly answer "Me." Last year saw a 266% increase in Millennials running for Congress, a testament to our generation's empowerment to create the change we wish to see in the world.
The best part? The young leaders who win elected office are actually passing bipartisan legislation at higher rates than their older colleagues. Just as Millennials have allegedly "killed" everything from cereal to diamonds, we are now coming after toxic polarization.
The organization I run, Millennial Action Project (MAP), exists to support this wave of youth public service and scale their positive disruption in our political culture. More than 1,600 young leaders across the country have joined our network, primarily through something called a Future Caucus. This group of bipartisan elected officials works together in their legislature to write, introduce, and pass legislation. Even more importantly, the Future Caucus creates a permission structure for young lawmakers to build relationships across the aisle. By giving policymakers a generational identity to connect to, rather than a partisan identity, we create a new starting point for conversations.
That unique space allows legislators to harness the empathy, open-mindedness, and creativity necessary to tackle big problems. It's a simple idea that is having a powerful impact in the halls of Congress and state legislatures — like this Kansas Future Caucus bill to expand access to homeownership, or this Congressional Future Caucus legislation on gun violence prevention. When legislators truly listen to one another, they work more collaboratively and create more sustainable and long-lasting policy change. And if Members of Congress can do it, so can you. That's why moments like the upcoming National Week of Conversation are so important.
Last week, MAP, along with more than 300 other organizations, participated in America Talks and the National Week of Conversation. These national movements created a unique opportunity for thousands of Americans to come together to engage across lines of difference, in order to start the very real, very hard work of healing our divides.
In this spirit, MAP brought remarkable young legislators together across party lines to talk to one another — and more importantly, to listen to one another. We live streamed these conversations and engaged with community members to break down the barriers between elected officials and their constituents. Watch our first Instagram dialogue with two young members of Congress, Future Caucus co-chairs Reps. Blake Moore (R-UT) and Sara Jacobs (D-CA). We also convened three bipartisan young legislators at the state level who identify in the LGBTQIA community in observance of Pride Month.
Moments like these are critical for our democracy. And even beyond these days of action, we must prioritize bringing these types of conversations into the limelight. The more voters can see positive models of public service, the more they will believe that a democracy which thrives off of diversity is indeed possible — thus creating a virtuous cycle that builds a more effective and responsive civic ecosystem.
Ultimately, these conversations are an entry point, not an ending point. But we have to start somewhere, and the next generation of leaders is not waiting around. We are rolling up our sleeves and building the future we want to live in. The power of young people to transform our democracy is very real, and it's already happening all around us. You just need to listen.
- An invitation to Gen Z: Describe your wish for America. - The Fulcrum ›
- Millennial Action Project - The Fulcrum ›
- Millennial Action Project names Layla Zaidane as CEO - The Fulcrum ›
- Gen Z is our best hope for peaceful politics - The Fulcrum ›
- It's time to reframe the United States - The Fulcrum ›
- AOC and the Making of Millennial Politics | The Nation ›
- Generation Z Looks a Lot Like Millennials on Key Social and ... ›
- How Millennial Leaders Will Change America | Time ›
- The Generation Gap in American Politics | Pew Research Center ›
- Millennial Politics | Shining a spotlight on progressive candidates ... ›
Growing up in Milwaukee, Steven Olikara felt that playing music was the only way to bring people of all backgrounds and ideologies together — until he was inspired to launch the Millennial Action Project.
Believing the trend toward polarization had put American democracy on perilous footing, Olikara decided to translate his musical performances into political involvement on a national scale. In 2013, he officially launched MAP with the hopes that the next generation could bridge the political divide and put America on the right path forward.
Now, after nearly a decade at the helm, Olikara has stepped down as both he and the organization enter new chapters. On Wednesday, the organization announced as his successor Layla Zaidane, who previously served as MAP's executive director and COO. As for Olikara's next steps, the 31-year-old has his sights set on a potential Senate run next year when Republican Ron Johnson's seat is up for election.
"I'll be focused on how we can raise the consciousness of our politics and how we can bring the MAP model to a new level in our country," Olikara said. "I'm very deeply engaged in how that model can make a positive impact in my home state of Wisconsin."
His name is one of several that have been thrown out as possible Democratic contenders for Wisconsin's hotly contested Senate seat. Others include: Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry and state Sen. Chris Larson of Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
There's a chance Johnson, who is in his second term, may not seek re-election, which would dial up the competitiveness of that race. The 65-year-old senator has said previously that he intended to serve only two terms, but he has not yet made an official decision. If Johnson decides to retire, his open seat would be one of two in a state that went to Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. (The other is held by Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, who announced his retirement last October.)
Regardless of where Olikara's political career takes him, he will stay involved with MAP as founder and senior advisor. (Olikara also serves on the board of directors for Issue One, which owns, but is journalistically independent from, The Fulcrum.) Over the last few months, he has been transitioning out of his leadership position while MAP's board of directors vetted more than 100 candidates for the role.
Ultimately, Zaidane was chosen because "there was no one quite so intimately connected or committed to MAP's mission and vision as Layla," board Chair Nicholas Maschari said in announcing her promotion.
Since joining MAP in 2016, Zaidane said, she has been "truly inspired by MAP's vision of a more inclusive democracy, led by young people."
As the new CEO, Zaidane will continue to grow the organization's Future Caucus Network, a bipartisan coalition of young legislators from across the country. Through this work, MAP and its caucus members will develop future-oriented solutions on issues such as climate change, criminal justice and democracy reform.
"It's hard to imagine a more important time for our country to move beyond the partisan framework that's defined our politics for far too long, and I am honored to be leading MAP and our network of young legislators in this movement," she said.
Zaidane, before joining MAP, was managing director of the youth-oriented Generation Progress and a marketing specialist for LivingSocial. She earned a degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
During his time leading MAP, Olikara said his biggest accomplishments came when he saw the hard work of his staff and legislators in the Future Caucus pay off.
"Often it happens behind the scenes where they exhibit tremendous political courage to get a bill over the finish line or when they reach across the aisle to build a coalition," he said. "That always speaks deeply to the possibilities of this movement, so it's these stories of growth and leadership that, to me, are the most personally meaningful."
And millennials' impact on politics will only continue to grow. Last year's election saw more victories from young candidates than ever before: 1,641 people under the age of 45 were elected to state legislatures — representing nearly a quarter of the total seats. And 81 young members from both parties, including 23 freshmen and 58 incumbents, were elected to the House of Representatives.
Plus, Democrat Jon Ossoff won his January runoff in Georgia, making him at age 33 the youngest person elected to the Senate since Joe Biden in 1972. Another young senator, 43-year-old Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas, was re-elected last year.
Olikara is hoping these young representatives will help inject new life into politics and political decision-making. One of the biggest problems MAP has tried to tackle from the outset is what he calls the "short-termism" of politics.
"It's all about short-term wins and short-term fixes, often at the expense of the long-term health of our country," he said. "It's been too politically convenient for our leaders to just kick the can down the road on a lot of generational problems, whether it's climate change or the national debts or preparing our workforce for the jobs of the future."
Having young people represented in state legislatures and Congress, Olikara said, is going to have a huge impact on policymaking because their generation brings different life experiences and ideas.
Reflecting on his time at MAP, Olikara said there is no person better suited to lead the organization into its next chapter than Zaidane.
"For over four years, Layla has been by my side for every major decision at MAP. She brought energy, conviction and dedication to her role first as COO and then as executive director & COO," he said. "As I step down from serving as CEO at the organization I helped found over eight years ago, I'm proud to pass the baton to such a capable leader. It's honestly a dream come true."
- Millennial Action Projects awards 3 for cross-party efforts - The ... ›
- Younger House members prove to be a bit more bipartisan - The ... ›
- Steven Olikara, cultivator of young and centrist leaders - The Fulcrum ›
- 'Reunited States' now available on Amazon Prime - The Fulcrum ›
Organizer: Millennial Action Project
This award recognizes bipartisan legislators from our State Future Caucus Network who have embodied MAP's mission to transcend political tribalism. This year's nominees went above and beyond to build relationships with their colleagues across the aisle, as they had to do it virtually and in a polarized environment. For that, we applaud them. Even if you don't tune in for the whole thing, the livestream will be a chance for you to unite with legislators and thought leaders under a shared vision: a diverse democracy where the political culture is grounded in empathy and leaders pursue innovative policy solutions.