Being politically active, for Hannah Zimmerman, means so much more than just supporting a candidate come Election Day.
As the youngest person to ever sit on the National Credentials Committee at the Democratic National Convention, she was able to experience firsthand the ups and downs of running a campaign for a presidential election. She strives to spark progressive change, especially among the younger voting demographic, and is devoted to organizing and fighting for a better future for all.
College: Stanford University
Majors: Public Policy / Economics
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021
What motivated you to become so involved with politics at such a young age?
Bernie Sanders motivated me to become involved in politics. His policies, his way of thinking and speaking about important issues and his general attitude towards politics motivated me to take action. I stayed active after his presidential campaign ended because of the people I met on the Bernie campaign trail. These organizers didn’t get paid for the work they did, but organized simply because they loved the cause. Admirably, they still organize today for causes such as transitioning into a universal healthcare system in the United States, raising the minimum wage to $15, and making public college free for all. And I still stand with them.
How has working toward making political change affected your life?
In my yearbook, a student described me as the “happy warrior of socialism.” This is funny because two years ago, I was stumbling around lost — but through politics I have found my passion and I have found a direction.
Working in the revolution, I can be on the frontlines to bring positive change to my country and the world around me. I can help working-class people and disenfranchised minorities. I can bring opportunities to young people who may not have otherwise had them. In addition, I am surrounded by many wonderful political friends I have made in my work who bring me so much joy.
What has been the most difficult part of being such a young trailblazer in the political world?
The part I find most difficult is the same for many political veterans: navigating the current hostility and divisiveness in politics. Everyone knows about the left-right acrimony, but people pay less attention to the schism within the Democratic Party. I believe the 2018 Democratic platform brings us closer together, but my fight is for the Democrats to go further and create a progressive economic strategy that appeals to working-class people, youth and other disenfranchised Americans. If the Democrats do this, there will a more constructive approach and less antipathy in Washington. I’d rather light a candle than curse the darkness – we need millions of new Democratic lights.
What was the most motivating part of working on a presidential campaign?
I represented the Bernie Sanders campaign as the youngest person ever to have sat on the National Credentials Committee at the Democratic National Convention.
I sat “on the floor” — close to stage with the national delegation— of the DNC as virtually every elected Democratic official in America delivered the same message: “We’ve come so far. Don’t stop now.” I met activists from all over the country who gave up their jobs and rearranged their lives to join the “Bernie Brigade.” I met women from the Marianna Islands who waited ten hours to cast a vote for Hillary. I met Sioux tribe leaders who beat on drums in delegation meetings and cried at the idea that native voices could, at last, matter. I sat with young delegates who were shocked that they had a political voice even though they were still in high school and college. My DNC experience was life-changing.
Who/what is your biggest inspiration to do all of the work you’ve done thus far?
My biggest inspiration is my generation: “Generation Z.” We are a generation who grew up facing the aftermath of 9/11, including the middle eastern conflicts and during the Great Recession. Our generation is predicted to be worse-off financially than our parents and face more college debt than ever before. My generation is hardworking and optimistic despite that. I continue to organize and fight for the best future for my generation because we deserve a better world than the one we’re heading towards. I believe that we can achieve that world.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is interested in politics but isn’t quite sure where to start?
When I was starting out, I attended grassroots organizing meetings for Bernie Sanders volunteers to learn about how I could help. I would recommend even just attending a meeting with your local activist group or going to your school’s community service club to find ways to help others. At some point working with activists and volunteers, you will find your niche—what you specifically can do to improve your school or community. I urge all young Bernie-crats to find that niche by joining Our Revolution, or YDSA to get involved in a campus chapter near you!
How do you hope to use this experience for your future in college and post-grad?
I want to keep doing what I’m doing while I’m at Stanford University the next four years. I hope to help form a graduate student union, increase the presence of organized labor on campus, and push for Stanford to become a sanctuary campus. Off campus, I’ll be a member of New York County’s Democratic committee, as New York City’s youngest elected official. I love organizing, coalition building. My goal is to do this professionally, preferably in an official government role.
Besides politics, what are your other passions?
In addition to politics, I am a trained singer, having spent my high school years as a vocal major at New York City’s “Fame School,” LaGuardia High School. I am bridging the gap between my music and political work by co-founding the Socialist Artists Alliance (www.socialistarts.org) for artists involved in the political revolution.
Further, with a middle school friend who now lives in Finland, I hope to create an international clothing line that features socialist slogans and is manufactured only by union labor. We hope to have our first pieces for sale by Christmas.
Taylor Petschl is a fourth year journalism student, concentrating in public relations at Cal Poly SLO. She is one of Her Campus Cal Poly's campus correspondents, a Her Campus Media editorial intern, campus expansion region leader and a national blogger for the Style and Beauty sections. She plans to attend medical school after graduating, and hopes to become a pediatric anethesiologist.