Roughly 80 students gathered in front the Pegasus Statue near Glenn G. Bartle Library to hear Anthony Brindisi, Democratic congressional candidate for New York’s 22nd district, speak at a student rally held on Monday afternoon by Generation Vote.
With the help of the College Democrats and the Brindisi for Congress campaign, Generation Vote, a student-driven startup that aims to educate and mobilize students in politics, has worked for the past eight months to organize a rally in an effort to increase local political engagement among college students. According to Jacob Bezner, team leader at Generation Vote and a junior double-majoring in political science and history, the organization’s goal is to bridge the gap between student communities and electoral policies.
“We believe that every student deserves the resources necessary to be the change they want to see in their local politics,” Bezner said. “Getting Anthony Brindisi to come to our campus was no small task and has taken a lot of teamwork, but I’m really proud of what we were able to put together.”
According to the organization’s website, Generation Vote’s model includes educating, mobilizing and connecting students by bringing them closer to the candidates and working through their student policy process to ensure students have a seat at the political table. Members of Generation Vote, such as Sean O’Brien, a junior majoring in political science, worked for nearly eight months to prepare for Brindisi’s visit.
“Mostly what was important was outreach: sharing the event on Facebook, knocking on doors, even tabling on the Spine and handing out flyers,” O’Brien said. “That’s how I helped, and I think we got a pretty good turnout.”
City Councilman Conrad Taylor, ‘18, also spoke at the event. Taylor said he encourages students to get involved and assured them their voices can make a difference.
“Believe me, people will silence you for being young,” Taylor said. “It happens to me all the time, especially back when I first tried to get involved in politics. Young people like us, for years throughout history, have not been taken seriously in the political process. We are so lucky to have a candidate that actually sees value in the voice of young people.”
After Taylor and Bezner introduced Brindisi to the podium, the Democratic candidate spoke directly to students about their responsibilities to their college town.
“There are thousands of students on this campus — thousands of students who have made Binghamton their home,” Brindisi said. “You come from all over this country, but this is your community. Whether it’s for four years or more, this is your home. Wouldn’t you want to have a say in who represents your home?”
He also discussed his platform, highlighting a number of differences between his campaign and that of his Republican opponent, Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. According to Brindisi, his campaign is fully funded by local supporters, rather than by political action committees. Additionally, Brindisi said he is fully committed to protecting health care across NY-22, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions.
After Brindisi’s speech, he joined the students in the crowd and answered questions one-on-one. According to Madeleine MacLean, an undeclared freshman interning for the Brindisi campaign, this was her first time meeting Brindisi in person.
“It was nice getting to hear from him directly because I’ve heard a lot about him and about the election, but it’s nice to actually hear him speak,” MacLean said. “I liked the emphasis that the event put on young voices in politics — that we can actually have an impact.”
Brindisi spoke with approximately a dozen students individually. He said he believes it’s important to visit campuses to show students what causes they could be supporting in the upcoming election.
“I want [the students] to get involved in this community,” Brindisi said. “What better way than to register to vote here and supporting us in the November election? I’m not here expecting young people to vote for me, but I think it’s important for people running for office to give young people a reason they’d want to go out and vote.”
According to Bezner, Generation Vote has been working tirelessly to innovate the space of campus engagement in more political campaigns, and he hopes to take the positive energy from Monday’s rally and keep pushing the momentum until Election Day on Nov. 6.
“I’m genuinely pleased with how the rally turned out,” Bezner said. “There’s a lot of energy on campus, and I think you could really feel that energy during the speeches and even afterward. It was genuine engagement, and that’s what we wanted to see from our students.”