Celebrating 15 Years of Student-Driven Progress
February 3, 2020
By Katie Kirchner
“I understood that my responsibility as a student activist wasn’t simply to call attention to what was wrong but to work diligently to make it right. And I have tried to live that life, every day” —Stacey Abrams
On Saturday, January 11th, Stacey Abrams shared her hopeful wisdom with over 100 Roosevelt Network students, alumni, staff, and partners from all over the country as we celebrated 15 years of student-driven change and a vast network of tenacious, forward-looking people. Abrams, former Georgia House Minority Leader, founder of Fair Fight, and executive director of the recently launched Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP), gave testimony to the importance of youth activism and student policy work. I returned to NYC feeling proud of the Roosevelt Network and invigorated by our community’s commitment to changing who writes the rules.
Much like the rules of our economy and democracy, it was a choice to host the celebration at Georgia State University. At a time when immense public power is being transferred to private hands, our public institutions are not only sacred—they are essential. A renewed sense of public power and its promise of equity and inclusion must guide our path ahead. And for too long, the rules and reality of our democracy have left out too many places and the people in them. Strongest in the Midwest and South, the network is redefining what it means to have access to power. On campuses spanning our nation—from the University of Georgia, University of North Florida, and Jackson State University, to the University of Michigan, University of Illinois, Chicago, and North Hennepin Community College—the Roosevelt Network supports student-led campaigns at the campus, local, and state levels with initiatives ranging from the 10 Ideas policy journal and Forge Fellowship to programs focused on financialization and privatization.
As we mark this moment in the network’s history, we are on the cusp of perhaps the most important election of our lifetimes. And while a lot can happen in an election year, one thing is certain in the fight ahead: Our future is up to us, and we won’t give that power away—not to corporations, not to billionaires, and not to elites who tell us to trust a system that only works for them. What we’re bringing to the next decade, and to the next chapter of the Roosevelt Network, is an unwavering commitment to our planet and to our democracy—a commitment rooted in equality and justice. What’s key is that wherever we go next, we’re going together. No one organization or person in this movement can win alone, and we were honored to celebrate in Atlanta alongside partner organizations and allies we are honored to work with in this fight, including: Lead for America, the NAACP Youth and College Division, the SEAP, and Georgia State Representative Park Cannon. We won’t win the future unless we reclaim it side by side.
For the past 15 years, the Roosevelt Network and its partners across the progressive movement have brought forward big, bold ideas for change; we’ve organized and mobilized, and we’ve continued to fight for an economy and democracy that work for all of us. In these years, the network has blossomed into one of the nation’s largest student policy networks, with students and alums across nearly 100 campuses and in about 40 states. And that’s just the beginning of it. Throughout our 15th year, the first year of this new decade, we will reflect on the amazing things Roosevelt Network students and alumni have achieved.
Today, Teen Vogue released a profile on Abrams—written by their politics editor, Allegra Kirkland, who joined us in Atlanta and experienced first hand the power of student-led movements and the commitment to structural change. As Kirkland highlights, the future we want depends on expanding access to political power. Check out the story here and follow the Roosevelt Network and Stacey Abrams to stay updated on their impactful and timely initiatives.