Symone Sanders talks inclusion


Symone Sanders, senior advisor to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, kicked off Mock Convention 2020’s slew of speakers. Photo by Lilah Kimble.

Jin Ni

In the kickoff session of the 27th Washington and Lee Mock Convention, speaker Symone Sanders urged students, faculty and visitors to be a radical revolutionary in personal life and politics. 

“There is no magic wand,” said Sanders, referring to how there is no easy solution to the complicated aspects of politics and social change. “Radical revolutionaries have to be willing to take a risk. Change will never come about if we are doing the same thing with the same people.”

Sanders currently serves as a senior advisor for former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. 

In the 2016 election, she worked for Bernie Sanders’ campaign as the youngest presidential press secretary at the age of 25. 

Her experience on the trail in 2016 taught her a lot about what being a radical revolutionary looks like: being willing to take a risk, being willing to step in the gap and being strategic.

She recalls the times when she was on the road, headed to a venue to introduce Bernie Sanders, but was consistently denied entrance. It got to the point where she had to tell campaign staff to tell the security at the venue that she was coming.

“Tell them that this time tomorrow I will be coming in this color Chevy Cruise,” said Sanders. “And also tell them that I am bald and black.”

Sanders said the next day, she was given little to no trouble getting in.

Later, Senator Sanders asked her why she was having a hard time getting into these venues.

“Well, racism, Bernie,” Sanders said.

It was a difficult experience, but the senior advisor for Biden says she learned a lot from it. 

If she was having a hard time getting in, then who else was having hard time, not being seen or heard?

“Sometimes you have to agitate for the people not in the room, for the person whose perspective is not represented.” Sanders said. “It’s taking proverbial stock of who is heard and who is not.”

Assistant Professor of Politics Brian Alexander said he was looking forward to the speakers for Session One.

“The students are going to pull off an extraordinary event,” Alexander said. “It’s going to be seamless. And the speakers are going to be excellent.”

Students who attended Session One said they enjoyed the speech.

“Sanders was really animated and knew how to hype up a crowd,” said Julia Batavick, ‘22, the state chair for the New Jersey delegation. “I think she had a lot of insightful advice that I hope to incorporate into my daily life and a future career in politics.”

Sanders also stressed the importance of having accomplices, not allies. “Allies stand on the sidelines and cheer. But accomplices go down with you,” said Sanders. 

However, it is also important that those accomplices keep you honest, and you them.

“Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. But it is also necessary,” said Sanders. “Being uncomfortable is the only way we’ve gotten anywhere in this country.”

As a parting message for the students of Washington and Lee, Sanders encouraged students to find the radical revolutionary in themselves, and the accomplices in their lives. 

“I am impressed with the work you have done here,” Sanders said. “I almost thought I was at the real convention.”

She said she hoped that this spirit of unity was something the students would continue to hold onto, regardless of party affiliation, race, class or gender.

“It is your time. It is our time. It’s important that we stand up and be heard,” the senior advisor said.