When thinking about the need for more representation in politics, it is important to acknowledge the people working to make politics more inclusive. While I believe there are not enough people of color, women, [fill in the blank with your choice of underrepresented identity], it’s important to note that people of all identities have always been involved in political struggles. People of all identities have advocated on behalf of themselves and others as well. In a country where most people publicly acknowledged for their political influence and achievements are older, white, heterosexual men I want to acknowledge the work of Sarah Audelo.
I met Sarah at a Women in Politics panel at Georgetown’s OWN IT Conference. Sarah was talking about her role as a Policy Director at Generation Progress. In this role, she primarily focuses on policy that is “youth led and focused”, helping to incorporate the voices and work of millennials like herself into policy making. I was lucky enough to have her agree to an interview, and have written down some of her responses to my questions:
How and when did you become involved in politics?
I really got involved during undergrad. Mostly, I focused on global HIV and AIDS activism, and pushing back against the abstinence-only position of the US government when it comes to foreign aid and AIDS prevention. I started getting engaged in high school though, a family member of mine had HIV, so I had been aware of it, but I took more of an activist role than a one involved in politics.
How do you bring your identities into your politics?
As a mixed-race, fourth generation Latina, I try to be as cognizant of who’s at the table when decisions are being made. I try to think about who I’m working with and for to come up with policy solutions. I think it’s important to ask: How are you involving the communities affected? How are you communicating with them and others involved in the process?
What communities do you find are often “not at the table”?
Young people are not at a lot of decision-making tables. This includes low-income youth of color, young people who don’t go through “traditional” college pathways, people that go back to school, people that have to work to support themselves, queer youth, queer youth of color. Many people don’t get the chance to come to the table, but when we do, I think many of us bring all parts of ourselves.
How can we work to bring more voices to the table?
When working on policy we need to be more conscious of who we talk about, but don’t involve. The truth is, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu! There needs to be a conscious attempt to help build pipelines. Larger conversations in all political spaces are necessary, but at a more individual level, it’s important to look around when talking about issues and see who’s missing? We need to welcome people into these spaces, provide them jobs. It’s important to challenge the spaces that already exist, but targeted outreach needs to be done. Sometimes, that means up-ing the salaries at non-profits and government organizations so that people can live off of their wages. We need to think differently about hiring, how we’re paying people and how we’re recruiting them.
I know you currently focus on policy, but have you considered running for office?
I’m glad you asked, because I think it’s very important to ask people to run. But I don’t think that is my strength, forte or interest. I wouldn’t minding working for and with people to help them run for office, but I’m not interested in running.