What’s Next: A Vision for the Future

Looking forward for a brighter future.

When 2016 started, I knew it was going to be an interesting year. But not even I knew that the first couple months would turn out to be so exciting…

From a young age, I was immersed in the College Democrats culture. As a young child, my favorite babysitter was a President of the Appalachian State College Democrats, and I had attended a few meetings, when I was an age where people would still say “awww”, if they saw me on a College campus. When I entered high school, I looked up to some former leaders of the Appalachian State College Democrats, and was in awe of the work that they did. In fact, the first time I shook President Obama’s hand was when I joined the Appalachian State College Democrats on a volunteer trip to Millers Creek, NC in 2011. At the same time, I was maintaining an active presence in the Watauga County Democratic Party, even though I was still years away from being able to vote. I’m sure my dad would laugh at my fascination with going to Democratic events. Some high school students yearned for hanging out in the Walmart Parking Lot on Friday night, I longed for Saturdays with party functions, and weeknights when I could phone bank for my preferred candidates. Some students looked up to athletes as their role models, I watched every move of “larger than life” political leaders, aspiring to eventually follow in their footsteps. Even though I will admit, I had the naïve belief at one point that I was going to go to Wake Forest on a basketball scholarship to be the second incarnation of Chris Paul.

When I entered Wake Forest, I spent a little while trying to gain my footing on campus, even considering what life would be like after politics, but soon enough, I was in the College Democrats, for real this time. While I think few would suggest Wake Forest had a strong College Democrats chapter when I entered Wake Forest in the fall of 2013, it was obvious that it was a difficult time for chapters everywhere. I was still fortunate enough to get to see strong leaders from some of the former presidents of the Wake Forest College Democrats, who laid the foundation for the success, which we have achieved over the past year. In January 2015, I was given the opportunity to become Vice President of the Wake Forest College Democrats. When I became Vice President, we were lucky to have seven people at one meeting. Over 2015, and into 2016, we have experienced extraordinary growth, and have had over fifty people at multiple meetings, and have averaged over thirty people per meeting; which should be unheard of for a school of our size (and demographics). I have no interest in taking credit for this though. Over the past year (plus), I have been fortunate to serve with such a passionate team of execs, and a hardworking membership. These individuals are the ones who deserve the credit for making our organization strong. An organization can only be as strong as its membership, and every day, I wake up proud that I get to serve the Wake Forest University College Democrats.

Leadership should not be about popularity. Leadership is not about serving yourself or serving your friends. Leadership is about having a vision and being able to execute a vision to strengthen a organization. Not every decision as a leader is easy, and everything must be weighed carefully. When I during my term as Political Director of the College Democrats of North Carolina, and more recently, as President of the Wake Forest College Democrats, I have had to make many difficult decisions, having to weigh both my personal interests, the interest of the leaderships of the organizations, and my perceived beliefs about the interests of the organizations. While I would never believe my leadership is flawless, I believe in leadership growth, and hope that everything I have experienced over the past year have helped mold me into a stronger leader. Over the next year, I hope to grow more. I continually keep things in my mind that I would love to improve. Recently, I have been focusing a bit on how I can become a better communicator, and improve my patience a bit. My experience with Wake the Vote (read more here or here) has definitely helped with that, giving me the opportunity to work closely with people from “the other side”. While working with Republicans has not converted my to the GOP, it has taught me a lot about working with those who you do not necessarily agree with. These experiences have taught me the values of listening, and patience.

After much careful consideration, I have decided to seek the Presidency of the College Democrats of North Carolina for 2016–17 academic year. A president should not serve himself, but should instead serve the body they are elected to serve, and I want to represent the interests of our membership. Over the days and weeks leading up to the 2016 CDNC/YDNC Convention, I look forward to having conversations with College Democrats chapters across state of North Carolina, so I can listen to suggestions and concerns about what you would like our state federation to do for you. This campaign should not be all about my vision, but should instead be a reflection of your vision for the College Democrats of North Carolina.

I do have one announcement to make today though: I will not be creating a slate this year to run for the state presidency. While acknowledging the challenges of running without a slate, I cannot reconcile myself to embracing a system, which I have been critical of for so long. My belief is that a slate allows a presidential candidate to select friends and confidants to serve with them. My belief is this creates a lack of accountability for the state president. So this is my message to you, if you want to run to be a state leader of CDNC, do not let the presence of a slate scare you. The Democratic Party is supposed to be the big tent party, and the party of many ideas, I embrace the opportunity to work with a diverse group of leaders from all corners of our state and all cultural backgrounds.

But now, I am ready to listen. If anyone has anything they would like me to consider, do not hesitate to reach out to me. The College Democrats of North Carolina is nothing without our members, who make up the heart of our organization. We are #OneCDNC.

— — SLI