Q&A With Justin Rockefeller from Generation Engage

Justin Rockefeller attended the Democratic National Convention last month and The Denver Post caught up with him on his perspective as a young voter and his new mission, Generation Engage.

So how old are you now? I’m 29.

Do you have any siblings? I have two older brothers, and one older sister.

What schools did you go to (starting with middle school)?I went to the St. Albans school in Washington D.C. for middle school and high school (class of ’98), and then I went to Princeton after that.

Can you talk a little bit about growing up and yourpolitical perspective? Were you always interested, did you stay distant and then have a clicking point, or was there a person or a thing responsible for your interest in politics?  I actually grew up in a very political household, my mother’s father was a senator from Illinois, and was in the senate until 1985. That day he left in January 1985 was actually my father’sfirst day in the Senate, my father was a Democratic senator from West Virginia.

He was really the one who insisted mixing the political life with the family and home life, and over time that became very important to me. I grew up knowing dinner table discussion would always be lively, and about politics. I can remember how my dad would explain to me how just a piece of paper in Washington D.C. could have a very tangible effect on people in West Virginia, a coal miner’s life for example. So, I suppose in that way for me the process inWashington has always had that tangible effect on people’s lives. Two friends and I, Devin and Adrian Talbott, who also grew up in political families, decided to start Generation Engage in 2004 because we had this special perspective, and we were frustrated, and we knew something needed to be changed – that it could be done better.

Why was it important for you to come to Denver for thisConvention? I’m here for personal reasons. I’m here to discuss the work of Generation Engage, about the youth vote activity and all of its consequences. But my dad is going to be here actually on Wednesday speaking on national security. It really meant a lot to me to be here, and hear him do that. I’ve been to two other conventions, and both were very fun. I also have a lot ofcolleagues out here with other organizations that are doing the same thing I’m doing. So I’m glad to try to support them, I’m glad to be here personally and professionally.

Why did you initially get involved in generation engageand what goals do you see in the future of that organization? Generation Engage will eventually expand to all 50 states. The work is very encouraging, on almost a daily basis. I get emails daily from kids excited about what we do, and requesting our presence where they live. So there’s more fundraising to do, more outreach to do. We know the kids are out there with the opinions and the questions, and we have a very special plan to extract that vision. Half of the American youth has never set foot on a 4 year campus, and Generation Engage does not overlook anyone, but we aim to hear from young people who don’t go to college, and have not had that experience. From our backgrounds, the three of us know politicians have needs too. This is a resource for the politicians to tap into those otherwise hard to reach divisions of the country’s youth. On the website, you can read the three principles we came up with, that explain our most important purposes.

For a Washingtonian, (who feels like she’s – politically – seen it all) I really admire Generation Engage, and am excited about how it will continue to help me, and all of you! Check it out: http://www.generationengage.org/index.php

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