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BY MARSHALL SPEVAK
As I watch the national Democratic Party gear up for the 2020 election, I am thinking about the 2004 presidential election. I was a sophomore in high school and ready to get engaged in the political process. I co-founded the Young Democrats club at my school and soon found my way into the New Jersey Young Democrats. NJYD gave me a place to have a voice as a young person, meet other civically and politically passionate youth, and learn about campaigns and elections. Through NJYD I made lifelong friends, traveled to new states, and met my wife. When I became President of NJYD, I could not have been more honored. Now, almost five years later, I still feel that way. But I also recognize that it is time for the next generation of young leaders to take the reigns of this important and impactful organization. Therefore, I will not be running for another term as President of the New Jersey Young Democrats.
Looking back on the last five years, I am so proud of all the hard work and accomplishments by young Democrats up and down the state. Together, we’ve elected a historic number of Young Democrats to local office, school boards, and the State Legislature. We’ve volunteered and staffed campaigns in every region of the state. We’ve advocated for issues that affect us as young voters and will affect us long into the future. We’ve engaged with candidates excited by youth involvement and reminded electeds of our power to influence elections.
Perhaps what I am most proud of is the NJYD High School Leadership Academy. This program is a three day, two-night intensive program in Trenton that exposes students to state politics and government by meeting with state and federal officials, hearing from leaders in organized labor, business, and academia, studying the legislative process, and holding a mock legislative committee meeting on a relevant and timely issue. I started this program because I had the benefit of doing something similar when I was in high school and I knew it would show students that politics and government are not things that happen just in Washington. As a result, two years of alums have joined NJ campaigns and interned in local legislative offices. They saw the work they could do at home while we all try to change the course in DC. Running this program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it makes me both grateful and hopeful for New Jersey’s future.
Whether it’s access to affordable healthcare, affordable education, climate change, or safer schools, NJYD as an organization, and our members individually, are ready, willing, and most certainly able, to fight and work to make our communities and our state better for decades to come. With hundreds of members, 17 county chapters, and eight constituency caucuses, NJYD is a force for change in the State of New Jersey.
Finally, I want to say thank you: to my leadership team, past and present; to the Young Democrats who have knocked on doors in the rain and snow; to the many who put their own names on the ballot to make a difference for their community; to the many candidates, elected officials and party leaders who encourage and support Young Democrats; and to those who have supported me personally, and there are way too many to name, I thank you.
While my time leading the New Jersey Young Democrats will soon come to an end, I know that this is the beginning of what Young Democrats will do in our state and nation for a long time to come.
Marshall Spevak has served as State President of the New Jersey Young Democrats since May 2014. His term expires this summer.