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Young Elected Officials From Across the Country Speak at IOP Forum

Karla García, Joe Mitchell, Park Cannon, Justin Tseng '22, and Landin Stadnyk spoke at a Thursday IOP Forum about the U.S.'s youngest elected officials moderated by Peter Hamby.
Karla García, Joe Mitchell, Park Cannon, Justin Tseng '22, and Landin Stadnyk spoke at a Thursday IOP Forum about the U.S.'s youngest elected officials moderated by Peter Hamby. By Ben Y. Cammarata
By Tarah D. Gilles and Srija Vem, Contributing Writers

Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics hosted a panel featuring some of the nation’s youngest elected officials Thursday evening.

Moderated by Peter D. Hamby, host of Snapchat’s “Good Luck America,” the event featured Landin Stadnyk, a Kentucky-based conservation district supervisor; Karla García, a Dallas school board member; Iowa State Representative Joe Mitchell; Georgia State Representative Park E. Cannon; and Justin Y. Tseng ’22, a council member for the City of Medford, Massachusetts.

The discussion touched on topics including balancing a personal life with a career in politics, responding to displeased constituents as an elected official, and offering advice to young people interested in running for office.

The young politicians also relayed how important Gen Z is in shaping the country’s political future.

“Younger people actually have the ability to form consensus and be entrepreneurs in politics, and be able to formulate different public policy that maybe hasn’t been done before,” Mitchell said.

“There needs to be someone in the room” who can provide a “different perspective,” Tseng added.

Tseng also said Gen Z lawmakers can present to voters “another way of thinking about politics that’s more positive, that’s more substantive.”

In an interview, Mitchell said younger candidates running for office can play an important role in making the United States “as inclusive as possible” and ensuring government is “protecting everyone.”

Stadnyk, however, cautioned the audience about the importance of thinking through the motivations behind running for office.

“One thing I really tell people is, when they file for office, make sure that you’re not using it just as a resume filler, that you’re actually using it as something you think you can do some good in, ” Stadnyk said.

As the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, García said she felt “enraged” when she saw that many people were unable to finish high school and pursue higher education.

“Statistically speaking, the opportunity was minimal — in the single digits — for the expectation of those that were actually [going] on to pursue an education,” Garcia said. “The best thing you can do when you’re upset is take bold action.”

García said her personal experiences motivated her campaign for the Dallas Independent School District’s Board of Trustees. During Thursday’s panel, she urged other minorities to pursue similar positions.

“All the reasons we thought we weren’t enough are precisely the reasons why we need to be in those seats,” García said in an interview.

After the event, some audience members praised the speakers.

“Being a student of color myself, it was very humbling to see lots of people of color representatives out there,” Emerson College student Pranit Chand said.

“I’m actually very thrilled to see so many young people…out there and working for our generation,” Kristin He, also a student at Emerson College, said.

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