Young Democrats from Oconee County High School, North Oconee High School, the University of Georgia, and the state, in their meeting with Oconee County Democrats last week, had some tips for those in the audience less young than they are.
They said that the party should pay more attention to gun control, to climate change, to affordable housing, to issues facing the LGBTQ+ community--and to them.
“We are the Democratic Party,” Bryce Berry, a senior at Morehouse College and president of Young Democrats of Georgia, told the group.
The two women representing Oconee County’s two high schools expressed disappointment with new restrictions on access to abortion, which they called a female health issue.
“I fell like it is kind of crazy that we’re trying to fight for what our grandmothers did again,” said Viveka Mehrotra, a junior at North Oconee High School and one of co-presidents of the school’s Young Democrats.
They picked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, and Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff when asked “Of all the national Democrats, who are you most excited about voting for in the future?”
None of them gave or mentioned the ages of the trio. Whitmir is 51, Walz is 59, and Ossoff is 36.
The Oconee County Democrats organized the April 20 meeting to bring in Berry, Mehrotra, and Dylan Woolsey, a sophomore at the University of Georgia and director of the school’s Young Democrats, via Zoom.
|Screen Shot Zoom Meeting|
Audience members joined remotely as well.
Anna Russell, a senior at Oconee County High School and one of the vice presidents of the Young Democrats there, joined the party meeting in person at the Oconee Chamber of Commerce meeting room in Watkinsville.
Oconee County Party Chair Courtney Davis asked each of the four invited guests to give a little personal history and then talk about the activities of the groups they represented.
The four took questions from Davis and from the audience after those introductions.
Activities Of Oconee Groups
“We talk about recent news, Russell said of the Oconee County High School Young Democratic Party meetings. She said usual attendance is about 15 students.
“We like to go over both parties,” she added. “Though it is the Young Democrats Club, we like to just make sure both (parties) are represented just so if anyone wants to walks in, we want to welcome anybody.”
“We have speakers,” she said. “We like to bring doughnuts and talk about everything you can talk about.”
“It is nice to go somewhere where you can say anything you want to say and no one is going to judge you,” she said.
Mehrotra as a member of the Young Democrats at North Oconee High School said she is “a part of a political organization that honestly is a little bit of a minority in my school.” About 20 students attend Club meetings, she said, though as many has 70 has attended at times.
“I think working together with even people on the other side of the aisle in the school is kind of what I’m aiming for so we can have these sort of conversations together,” Mehrotra said.
She said the club also has gotten involved in political campaigns.
“This past fall we had a Students for Stacey Campaign at North Oconee High School,” she said. “We actually were the first high school based Students for Stacey Chapter here in Georgia. That was cool.”
UGA And State Perspective
Woolsey said the Young Democrats at the University of Georgia meet weekly and “We have speakers, or activists, or politicians that come by that really help to try to inform the students about various issues going around in Athens or statewide or just locally at a the school level.”
“It is just a good way to keep the student body informed that may not have that knowledge base otherwise,” he said. “We start every meeting with the news and a discussion.”
Berry said as president of Young Democrats of Georgia he oversees 16 county chapters, about 20 college chapters, and more than 40 high school chapters statewide.
“What the statewide does is we basically coordinate with all of these folks to make sure that we’re organizing on ever single level of the state,” he said.
Priorities Of Party
Davis asked the four speakers to indicate what they think the priorities of the Democratic Party should be locally, statewide, and nationally.
“We need year-round investment in organizing,” Berry said. “And young folks are good at organizing.”
“Young people are not just the future of the party,” Berry said. “We are the party. We are the most liberal, progressive generation in history. We are the Democratic Party. So let’s start investing in us and give us something to turn out for.”
“A pressing issue that’s been in the most news has been stuff about gun control,” Mehrotra said. “I know that is a huge priority for a lot of our students.”
She said a second issue for her is rank choice voting. “Everyone gets represented,” she said.
“I think affordable housing in local communities is the most pressing issue,” Woolsey said. “I think Democrats should run a little bit more hard on that to increase their connection with everyday voters.”
“For youth, a more aggressive stance on climate change and what the state of Georgia can do to address climate change is needed,” he added.
“I think there should be a little bit more representation with the LGBTQ+ community,” Russell said. “I know people are still kind of afraid... But I think it we can try and promote some kind of safety.”
An audience member asked the speakers about their “thoughts about women’s health issues.”
“In my mind, I see abortion as health care,” Mehrotra said. “I think pro choice can also mean that you respect another woman’s choice, and while that might not be your choice, I think that’s what that’s really all about.”
Mehrotra said she also was very supportive of the Period Poverty Movement.
“Getting women access to certain feminine hygiene products in a way that is sustainable and that can hopefully be free of charge eventually is something that is really important to me,” she said.
“I know that my school has been trying to promote that same issue as well,” she said.
“I think I am at that age where I don’t know why I’m just fighting for my own right, just for women’s rights,” Russell said.
“Young women are just a little scared,” she added. “You see it on the news where women drive over states and states just to get an abortion where it’s like it still cost a ton of money and some people can’t afford that and still they’re just doing whatever they can do to get there.”
“And it’s really sad to think about,” she said. “And people don’t recognize that that’s a problem today. It just needs to be changed. The sooner the better.”
Support From Parents
In response to another question from the audience, Mehrotra said “My parents are very proud that I’m a part of the Young Democrats at my school.”
“That is an immense privilege,” she said. “I know so many of friends who are part of the Young Democrats who have parents who might not be as accepting of their beliefs.”
“And I’m just really grateful to have that sort of support system and to have someone I can talk to about issues that might plague me,” she added.
“I would say my parents are also very accepting,’ Russell said.
She said her mother has told her: “Don’t just see one side or the other.”
“She just wants me to look at both sides,” Russell said. “I think that helps me choose who I want to be.”
“I think it is just best if you find yourself,” Russell said. “And my mom helped me find myself by just making me see both sides and letting me choose.”
Davis asked the four Young Democrats which national Democrats they were “most excited about voting for in the future?”
Berry said Gov. Whitmer of Michigan
“She is absolutely amazing,” he said, and added that he was very excited about Minnesota Democrats in general and Gov. Walz of Minnesota in particular.
Woolsey agreed, and also mentioned Georgia Sen. Ossoff.
“He is the first politician I met,” Woolsey said. “It will be exciting to finally be able to vote for him for Senate.”
“Same thing for Ossoff,” Mehrotra said, who added that she will be excited to be able to vote in local elections.
“Honestly, I think they are some of the elections that have the biggest impact on our daily lives,” she said. “I’m really excited to vote for those as well.”
I attended the meeting remotely and recorded it from Zoom.
I also lent Davis a camera and tripod, asking her if she would find someone in the audience at the Chamber of Commerce meeting room to video record the session.
Harold Thompson agreed to do that.
The video below combines these two files.
At the beginning of Russell’s initial comments, her microphone was muted, and the audio in the file below is from the camera in the room. The camera was distant from her, and it is difficult to hear what she was saying until the microphone was unmuted.
Russell began those comments at 14:56 in the video.
Mehrotra began her comments at 17:01 in the video.
Woolsey first spoke at 18:55.
Berry began his comments at 20:20 in the video.
Questions from Davis and the audience follow.
I would prefer to cover both political parties in the county, but the Oconee County Republic Party does not live stream its meetings and bans video and audio recording of those meeting. On the advice of my doctors, I do not attend gatherings in crowded rooms.