Andrew Gillum encourages young people to get involved in politics

“You all are what is right with America,” Gillum told students in the audience

Elizabeth Bell and Tori Johnsson

Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida in 2018, urged the audience at the 27th Washington and Lee Mock Convention to “not be on the sidelines, but to get into the arena.” 

“I believe that 2020 marks a crossroads,” he said. “Young people have the opportunity to set us aright.”

 Gillum got involved in politics at a young age, when he lobbied to get nacho cheese flavored Doritos in his school vending machine, instead of plain tortilla chips. 

The fifth of seven children raised by a school bus driver and a construction worker, Gillum told students that it’s “not about where you begin, but where you end.”

At age 23, he became the youngest person elected to the Tallahassee City Commission. While attending Florida A&M University, he led thousands of students to protest Governor Jeb Bush’s attempt to end affirmative action.  

Lilah Kimble
Andrew Gillum speaking at Mock Convention. Photo by Lilah Kimble.

“Progress doesn’t happen without you getting involved,” Gillum said. 

For the first time in history, young people between ages 18 and 35 make up the largest group of voters in the country, Gillum said. 

“To quote Bill Clinton, ‘There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what is right with America,’ Gillum said. “And I would submit that you all are what is right with America.”  

Many students were looking forward to hearing Gillum’s speech, the final one of Mock Convention. 

“Andrew Gillum’s just an amazing man, I highly respect him,” Abhi Janamanchi, ‘23, said.

The speech received positive feedback from many members of the audience.

“He has a great message to try to bring our country together, and really get back to the roots of what makes this country successful,” said alum Jeremy Smith.

Andrew Gillum gestures towards the crowd during his speech. Photo by Lilah Kimble.

Gillum said that he is a Democrat because his story wouldn’t be possible without the values and political leadership of the Democratic Party. 

But the Democrats are not going to win the presidency by simply saying that Donald Trump is bad and unqualified, he said. They need to “give people something to vote for, not just vote against.”

He credited Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as some of the reasons why he’s a Democrat. 

“I regard all of those people as bending that arc just a little bit towards justice.” 

He also acknowledged the division that exists in American politics today and reminded the audience that “we’ve got a lot more in common than what divides us.”

“I want to reject the brand of politics that says the only way for you to rise is for me to fall. I want to reject that brand of separatist tribalism,” said Gillum.

Gillum ended his speech by reminding the audience to think about more than themselves when voting. 

“We have a responsibility not just for ourselves, but for those who will come after us,” he said.