fbpx Young voters ascendant: How a generational shift won the 2020 election and could remake American politics | Harvard Kennedy School

The Harvard Kennedy School’s Mark Gearan and Marshall Ganz work closely with young voters and activists and join us to explore where the current groundswell of youth activism is coming from—and where it could take us.

NOVEMBER 18, 2020
35 minutes and 49 seconds

In 2019, the 72-million strong Millennial generation (23-to-38-year-olds) quietly surpassed the Baby Boomers as America’s largest living generational cohort. In the 2020 election, they made their voices heard with a roar. Not only did younger voters—and particularly younger voters of color—turn out to vote and organize for candidates in record numbers, they also provided the margin of victory for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in key states like Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. Mark Gearan is not only the director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, he was also director of the Peace Corps under President Bill Clinton. Marshall Ganz teaches political organizing and trains young activists from groups like March for Our Lives and the Sunrise Movement, and was himself a member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. They talk with our host Thoko Moyo about what is different about today’s young voters and activists and how they could reshape America’s political landscape going forward.

Hosted by

Thoko Moyo

Produced by

Ralph Ranalli
Susan Hughes

This episode is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.


Intro: Mark Gearan: I think this augers well. We know when you look at data, particularly for first-time voters, those who get in the habit of voting early tend to vote consistently. I think it's an on-ramp for civic participation.

Intro: Marshall Ganz: I actually don't think people mobilize around issues, I think they vote around values. And I think the question is: What's aligned with their values?

Intro: Thoko Moyo: In 2019, Millennials—that is those in the 23 to 38 year old group—surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest living generational cohort in the United States. This group of approximately 72 million are of particular interest when it comes to elections and votings, but they don't have a great track record. Historically, voter participation among young Americans has been low, and it's always been viewed as unreliable. But the numbers from the US election are in, and it looks like this time they did vote and they did so in record numbers. In fact, younger voters, and particularly those of color, provided the crucial margin of victory in key states like Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania that decided the election in favor of the Democrats, Joe Biden and Camila Harris. Surveys also showed that young people are increasingly likely to get involved in politics beyond casting ballots. In the recent Youth Poll conducted by the Institute of Politics here at Harvard Kennedy School, young voters surveyed said they were three times more likely to give money to, or to volunteer for a political campaign than they were in 2016.

So what does this all mean for the future of politics in America? Mark Gearan is the Director of the Institute of Politics. He was also the Director of the Peace Corps under President Bill Clinton. Marshall Ganz teaches political organizing and trains young activists from groups like March for Our Lives and the Sunrise Movement. In the 60s, he was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement. They are here today to help us understand where this groundswell of youth activism and political involvement is coming from and where it could take us. Welcome to PolicyCast. Let me start with you Mark. So give us a little bit of a perspective of young people and voting. What is their track record?

Mark Gearan: Well, is not anywhere near what we would want it to be. At the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School for 20 years, they’ve conducted a poll twice a year, measuring students' interest in issues and trends, candidates, and so forth. And one of the things that comes up through this 20-year history is the level of engagement. And indeed, one of the real impetus for the Harvard Votes Challenge, which was a collaborative effort at the Kennedy School, with the Ash Center and the Institute of Politics to mobilize Harvard University students, to work with counterparts around the country to go at this issue where young people are not voting in the kinds of numbers that one might expect and hope for. I have long thought, this is a challenge certainly. But what is exciting at this moment is what happened in 2020. It is a historical comparison for Harvard, the embarrassment of course is that it was only one in five, one in four students are voting and it's even worse in midterm elections. So gains were made in 2018, significant gains were made in 2020.

Thoko Moyo: So what is it, what's behind this apathy, why don't young people care about elections?

Mark Gearan: Right? It's a great question and a vexing one and candidates would be wise to reflect on this. My own view, and having worked on campaigns and been frustrated by candidates from time to time, is I don't think they were talking to young people. I always marveled that at presidential debates, which are held at colleges and universities around the country, there was precious little, if any comments made by candidates about issues of import to young people. Historically, we're speaking that I talk of in term for past elections. It's almost hard to do, right? To get to a venue of young people at college or university and not speak to the issues of climate or student debt. But I think the level of activism has changed, the awareness of candidates too has changed and candidly, the looming demographic because young people now will be the largest voting block in the American electorate.

So if not for the right reason, the sheer political expediency and realization that this is a very significant voting block. And I think the experience of the midterm in 2018 and certainly 2020, will reverse that kind of approach by campaigns forever. Because their voting candidates are listening and they are very wise to speak to the issues that are important to the young people.

Thoko Moyo: And so let's go back to the IOP Youth Poll that you talked about that was released in October. It's one of the polls that actually worked. So tell me a little bit about what trends you predicted or saw then, and how they matched up with what actually happened in the presidential election.

Mark Gearan: Right. Well, for 20 years, the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School has been tracking these issues, as I've said. And what we've found in our surveys this fall is that 63 percent of the respondents—and we poll 18 to 29 year olds nationally—so, 63 percent said they would definitely be voting. That was a very significant increase in 2016, that number would have been 47 percent. And our experience has been that the actual voting numbers have tracked our poll in past years. So that was a very significant interest and I think you saw it happening through the increase, and particularly in key States and swing States had significant impact for the Biden campaign. So it is a time when politics is personal. It is a time when these issues are very real and immediate in their lives, from the economy to health care, to issues of racial and social justice, and they are seeing voting as a way to make change.

Thoko Moyo: And what about the trends amongst the different groups within the young people? So what were the trends in terms of the candidates? What did you see in the poll? And again, did that bear out in the election?

Mark Gearan: Well we saw a significant increase from our spring and summer into the fall is the support for former vice-president Biden. A greater coalescence around his candidacy. And in the language of our students, when they were analyzing the poll, rather than just settling for Joe, they were voting for him. There was over this time an increase in his favorability. There was over this time an increase in their probability to support him. And certainly when you look at the data in terms of key turnout stats and States that was born up.

Thoko Moyo: So Marshall, let me bring you in, because I know you work a lot with students' groups and advise them as they think about their issues and how to mobilize and organize. So we've talked about how young American voters have not been reliable in the past. In fact, I think there was a lot of concern during the mass protest that we saw around racial justice, that the action on the streets wouldn't translate into actually going into vote. But that did happen. What do you think was behind that? What do you think got the young people out to vote this time around? And I know Mark talked about the issues that relate to them, but from your purview, what would you say were some of the issues that were critical?

Marshall Ganz: I actually don't think people mobilize around issues. I think they vote around values. And I think the question is, what's aligned with their values? And I think it's a mistake to think that people have an issue calculus in their head or name my issue and then... It's much more about values. And it's also about leadership. It's also about your perception of the person in terms of connection, but also in terms of efficacy and all the rest. So there's judgements being made about leadership and judgments being made about values that are extremely important I think. Now historically, young people ... This whole thing about young people don't vote, well, historically in most political campaigns, and I think Mark spoke to this point, they wouldn't invest in mobilizing young people. They wouldn't invest in mobilizing in communities of color very often, because the logic of ROI thinking in electoral politics is you invest money where you're going to get a return. So you invest in likely voters, you don't invest in unlikely voters.

The result is that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. It's just like, we're not going to campaign in a red state because there's no chance. Well, yeah. Guess what? Then that's an echo chamber. So I think it's important to recognize, not just that this comes from the young people, it comes from people making decisions about with whom to invest political resources and so forth. The other thing is people will vote when they think it matters. Again, it's like, "Oh, you don't have civic responsibility." Well, that's fine. If you feel closely identified with the polity, then you vote. And it's almost ... If you looked at a scale of well, who can identify best or most with say the system in general, and then let's move out, who's more alienated, who's more alienated, who's more alienated and you find who doesn't vote, who doesn't vote, who doesn't vote because voting has a whole ritual aspect to it. In other words, it's not just like a calculus of, let me see if I get this I'm going to …

People become habitual voters, and people acquire partisan identities, and voting then is a way of affirming that identity. And it's a way of affirming, "Oh yes, I am part of this." If you don't feel part of it and you're out of it, the motivation to vote is not there. The question then is, well, what's missing? Why is there no identification? Why is there the alienation? Now that means you got to ask some serious questions and not just figure out what issue to promote, because it goes beyond that. And so I think when we see these upsurges is because see, I think what motivates young people to vote is hope. And it's what motivates most of us, in fact. And so to me, it has more to do with enabling a sense of hope than it does what particular issue.

Thoko Moyo: Right. Marshall, I want to come back to something that you said earlier on before we start exploring what motivates young people. You mentioned that people vote around values, and then you mentioned leadership and connection. Then this particular instance, the young people that turned out for the Biden campaign where young people of color. So he doesn't exactly represent what you'd imagined in terms of age and also race. What was the connection there? What were they seeing in him that reflected themselves? Do you think?

Marshall Ganz: Well, let me just say, what were all the Bernie followers seeing in Bernie? In other words, it's not about identification in that very literal sense at all. It's about the capacity to enable hope, to offer promise of change, to be authentic. I think authenticity and courage. When I was involved with Howard Dean's campaign, New Hampshire, there were a lot of young people in there and I was curious, well, why? It almost always came back to courage and authenticity that that's what really matters. And I think there's a lot of truth in that. Because what you got with Bernie was, what you saw is what you got. And talk about courage, well, it's pretty evident. That's very appealing, that's very appealing to young people. I think we saw that with Barack too and we didn't see it with Hillary. And so again, I think it's important to make these judgements in the context of how people actually make choices about when to take risks, when to gamble. 

The other is, you have to believe that voting matters. You have to believe that government will respond. And of course, we've had 40 years of “government can't do anything.” And so, it's not ... that doesn't exactly create a context in which young people get to say, "Oh yeah, government, that's the answer," when they're hearing from all the politicians that government's a failure. And so there are those questions to look at as well. And I think in terms of the question you asked about young people of color. Well, I think number one is of course the incumbent president, number one. I think what happened since George Floyd, I think the whole summer was a big factor. I think color law was a big factor. We were saying earlier after the election, I saw relief all over the place, but I saw joy in communities of color. It's a very different dynamic there, especially among women of color and young people, because they're told, "That could be, that could be."

So I think it has more to do with these things. And there's one other thing I just wanted to get out there, which is, it isn't just about why people vote, it's why people mobilize people to vote. See if you really look at voting behavior, you'll see it has a whole lot to do with how mobilized you are. In other words, it's an interaction. It's not just, I sit by myself in a room and I decide, no, what makes it important to me is that other people are contacting me, telling me it's important. So you have to look at voting as a two person project, not just one and young people are major sources of organizers, of volunteers, of mobilizers. And so when you have a candidate that turns on young people, they're going to be out there doing the campaign work, not just voting. They're doing a campaign work not just among young people, they're doing campaign work with everybody. And so that's why they called it Bernie's army or whatever it was, but that phenomenon happens when you have the kind of candidate that really offers some promise.

Thoko Moyo: So Mark, let me bring you back in here. You'd mentioned earlier that the young people voted for Joe Biden, which was contrary to my, what I was thinking, which was, they voted against Trump. So do you want to just add to that and build on what that Marshall has said?

Mark Gearan: Yeah. Marshall of course said it wonderfully in terms of the value centered piece of this and voting your future. Right. Which is what we all do. And of course, young people have more at stake than anyone, I mean the most of their lives, God willing, are ahead of them, right? And so they have much more at stake and our politics are so personal. But what's striking to me here is while the support among young voters for President like Biden was significant at 60 plus percent, very significant support, it's also the case that young people of color especially played a critical role in this election. It's quantifiable when you look at the key turnout statistics in significant states, in Michigan, in Georgia in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Those states where that margin of victory was smaller than other states, what young voters have done and in particular, Black and Latino voters is very significant. So it is an agenda that they were clearly drawn to, is the values and the leadership question as Marshall well articulated. And it's now quantifiable when you look at the statistics of the results of the election.

Marshall Ganz: It's also where there was a lot of organizing going on. There was so much youth organizing going on in places like Detroit and Atlanta and elsewhere, that that was another key thing, it was a big focus in this time around.

Thoko Moyo: Well Marshall, this is what you do, I mean, organizing. So talk to me a little bit more about what it looks like to actually organize. Is there a playbook that people … look at these are the critical things that you have to do to organize and to mobilize. Just talk us through what that looks like. And when you advise youth leaders or student leaders, what are you telling them?

Marshall Ganz: If there were such a book, I think we'd publish it, and I'll get rich. There are practices, there are ways of thinking about it in ways of understanding what motivates people to act and of course, it's highly contextualized too. But for me, the starting point is why do you care? Why do you want to do this? And we spend time on that and not why in terms of the philosophical reasons or the state of the world. What motivates you? Why do you care? And this is the story of work that we often start doing is, let's get the values articulated, let's get them expressed, let's get them shared, not as a set of ideas on a mission statement, but the experience, feelings because values are expressed emotionally.

And so let's learn to speak the language of emotion and not try to run away from it or hide behind it, but embrace it as critical. So let's always start with the value stuff. Then the relational work, that makes a huge difference when you are part of something, and it's not just you on your own and not true with everybody, and it's certainly true with young people. Then there's more motivation, there is more courage. You're building relationships as you do it. So then you've got not just a me, you have an us then and an us as much more motivated.

Then comes the skills, then comes, okay, how do you actually learn to talk to people? Do you read a bunch of talking points? Or do you lead with why you're doing this and asking them why? That's one of the things we've learnt is so important, like with the Obama campaign, but since then, there's a lot of what's called deep canvassing that goes on now, much more than there had been. It was developed by Dave Fleischer in California, after Prop 8, lost when Obama won. Prop 8 was the anti-marriage equality thing. And they developed a way of going into precincts that voted against them, and having conversations at the door that became relational. In other words, it wasn't like, "Let's debate marriage equality." No, it was like, "Okay and let me tell you why I'm here. Or gee, do you have a..." Building some relational ground so that you find common values you do share, so that then the differences are recontextualized in that, as opposed to the differences defining what the whole encounter is about.

And so there's how to talk to people, and how to recruit more people. Because that's what you're always trying to do is find more people, volunteers, more, so you're building your capacity. One thing in a campaign is you're either... It's like Bob Dylan song, you're busy being born or busy dying. Either you're growing or you're shrinking. There is no such thing as stasis. And so you bring with you this evangelical dimension that, "yeah, we're looking for more people," and bring that in. Then people have to learn to count. In other words, the enthusiasm is wonderful, but if it isn't matched with structure that turns the enthusiasm into concrete output in terms of numbers of votes and so forth, then it's just noise.

Thoko Moyo: And people get turned off when you talk about structure. They feel that can be quite restricting.

Marshall Ganz: Well, this is one of the conversations that we have a lot about. In fact, I'm doing a project right now with Momentum, the Momentum organizing folks in Sunrise on the question of structure, because Jo Freeman in 1972, a feminist sociologist wrote a paper called “The Tyranny of Structurelessness.” And what she was saying is that, look, whenever human beings get together, they're going to structure themselves. Now it's either going to be on the books, visible and accountable, or it's going to be off the books, but people are still going to create their connections, their relationships. She's writing now in the early seventies when my generation was anti- structure. And it's a problem because you're responding to a structure you experience as oppressive, and so then your reaction is no more of that. And we confuse “freedom from” with “freedom to.” In other words, it's like I'm out from under that. And so, wait, you mean, now I have to create my own. Yes, you have to create your own, because if you don't, then you're going to squander all this energy. 

And so we teach it, in those terms. In the Obama campaign, we developed what people now call a snowflake structure. A form or collaborative and distributed leadership structure. And you got to have accountability, you got to … But what you're up against is what you're describing, because it'll just dissipate. So that's why I'm involved in this project right now, because we have to structure. All structure is, is an agreement among a group of people that we're going to work together in these ways. That we're going to meet at this time, we're going to hold ourselves accountable for what we commit to that's all it is. And so it's bringing intentionality to creating the muscles we need to be able to turn our values into real productive power and action.

Thoko Moyo: So Marshall, I want to ask one more question about organizing. A lot of you said that in this election, the Trump campaign did a better job with the community organizing that you described was the approach that the Obama campaign took. Would you agree with that? I read a lot in the papers about how they had gone door-to-door and there was much greater focus on the grassroots organizing than you saw with the campaign that was ultimately more successful.

Marshall Ganz: I wish I knew the reality. To know these things, you have to be on the ground, or you have to know who you're talking to, and you have to know what kinds of questions you're asking to actually discern what's actually happening on the ground and I don't know that with respect to Trump, I can't say. I know why … I think I understand why Trump is so galvanizing for his constituency, and has a narrative which the other side doesn't have that actually goes to their real pain. And that combines their hopelessness with, "Well, at least I'll have my guy in there given hell to all those people that are responsible for my mess." When you look at the voting where people think things are getting better, they weren't voting for Trump, they were voting for Biden where people thought things were getting worse, they were voting for Trump.

It's almost like Trump is a hope substitute because if you don't have hope that you can actually change your circumstances, well, I'll just say, "At least I'll get high." It's like, "Well, at least I'll have my guy doing his thing." And I don't mean to be dismissive at all. I think Dave Chappelle Saturday Night had an amazing monologue at Saturday Night Live.

Thoko Moyo: Very sobering.

Marshall Ganz: Well, I think very hopeful. I think the way he concluded was about let's get real. Let's get real about what people's life experiences are and connect at that level. And that's a lot of what we learned through the narrative work.

You can talk about abstractions, but when Keisha Lance Bottoms talks about what it means to be a mom, that's not an abstraction, that's real, that's what people can feel. And people care about their kids and they don't care about these policy ideologies. It's just a miss... The political discourse has been so screwed up. And I think that Biden's strength and that surprised me at the Democratic Convention. The Democratic Convention was about people and values, it was not about policy. See, policy is evidence of values commitments, but what you saw, it's almost like Biden offers a rehumanization, a politics that's turned into marketing and soundbites and advertising because the guy is a real person.

Mark Gearan: He's an example, I think too of someone who matched the rhetoric, right? His own narrative … he is authentic self. What was interesting to build on that again, back to our poll, is we found that young Americans are evenly divided pretty much about whether their opportunities to succeed are better than their parents' generation. A third saying better about the same or worse. So this future for the Biden Harris administration particularly vis-a-vis young people on that sense of hopefulness will be their work.

Marshall Ganz: And you got to be real. You got to be real.

Mark Gearan: Yeah.

Marshall Ganz: When people's antennae are so … people know when they're being disrespected, including young people. They know when someone's like, "Well you're young people, so now I'm going to talk to you about college loans." The difference between that, and actually listening, and hearing, and valuing, we got antennae for that, that are pretty good.

Mark Gearan: But I also think it's a time where at least young Americans are very attentive and as student's sophisticated about the intersectionality of their own views, of their own person, and other policy prescriptions. So someone coming in just talking about student loans, they are much more than that, as important as that is, because we found the import of healthcare and mental health, and the economy and rate so there is that. I think this generation is just dazzling in so many ways, but that appreciation and rootedness in the intersectionality of their lived experience and their policy views is pretty abundant.

Thoko Moyo: When you compare that, and I think that's a really great segue to comparing what we're seeing with young people today, with the Boomer generation, Generation Xers. Just a little bit more about where we are today versus what it was like back then. What are the main differences, Mark?

Mark Gearan: Well, I think the takeaway for me and this, again, back to our most recent poll, where again, of young Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, they agree that government should have an increased role in improving mental health services and addressing healthcare issues. They do see the governmental role as very significant regardless of party affiliation. Those issues left out as well as the economy and they saw voting as a very significant way to effect change. That is a good trend line and it is a policy prescription for elected leadership.

Thoko Moyo: And Marshall, what are some of the differences that you're seeing with young people today versus when you were organizing with generations before? What are the things that stand out for you?

Marshall Ganz: You mean when I was a young person?

Thoko Moyo: When you were young. Way back, right?

Marshall Ganz: No, No. It's funny. Somebody sent me a picture just three days ago from Mississippi in 1965, when we were organizing there with the state. And yeah, I'd look a little different now. The thing then was, I'm speaking now as a participant in that period, we didn't believe that government was … we didn't think the government was a good thing. I was involved in the … we went to the Democratic Convention in 1964 and tried to throw out the racist, Mississippi delegation and seat the Freedom Democratic Party from Mississippi, that was Fannie Lou Hamer was leading that. And we had that showed up and then we got there and all of a sudden our votes began turning against us and Fannie Lou Hamer in the middle of her press conference, Lyndon Johnson calls a press conference in the Rose Garden, takes all the press away and then it was a question of, if you want this job for your husband, then you got to whatever.

Marshall Ganz: And we just watched, we watched it because Johnson did not want to alienate this. And we just watched this erode for many young people involved in movements, that was a big turning point. That was like, "Wait a second, we did this, we tried this, Uh-uh. Oh and by the way we thought this guy was a peace President, huh? Guess what? We all got to show up for the draft." So there was a very different perspective that government was going to solve anything. See, young people are always at the heart of social movements, right? But whether it takes a political form and whether it takes an electoral political form is an open question. In the McGovern campaign, it took more of a political forum, but it was turned out to be a disaster so that what I'm hearing from Mark is that it's taking a form of, yes, you have to vote. That's remarkable because it means a kind of hopefulness and a plausibility, not just a necessity. And that's what's really cool. I think.

Mark Gearan: Having seen Marshall, all kidding aside about generations and youth and age, when the Institute of Politics brought the Parkland students to the Institute and we met in our conference room and Marshall came to talk to them about organizing. The generational divide there, it did not exist. This moment of inspiration motivated by course, motivated by commitment for the public good. So that's what's so hopeful blending these moments. And I've worked as a college president, I was director of the Peace Corps and worked in and around America's young people for a couple of decades. And I have to say this is the most dazzling generation and the most hopeful moment.

Thoko Moyo: I think that's a beautiful place to get us thinking about, what does this mean for the future? What we're seeing with this generation of young leaders?

Mark Gearan: Well, I can start in. I am very enthused and optimistic for the future, based upon this election. It was a significant election, the rate of engagement and voter participation. We saw it on our campus at Harvard and we saw it around the country. And so I think this augers well. We know when you look at data, particularly first-time voters, those who get in the habit of voting early, tend to vote consistently throughout their lifetime. I think it's on-ramp for civic participation.

Thoko Moyo: Right, it becomes a habit. You're a habitual voter. Yeah.

Mark Gearan: Exactly. So there's a greater likelihood of that. So it's a whole generational cohort that's coming in and it's a very big voting block. And so then it's this intersection with candidates, actually talking to young people, talking to about issues that are important to them. And so, I think from that, I am very encouraged, both for their appreciation of difference and their appreciation of the hopefulness of what they want our democracy to be. I think we saw it in this election and hopefully the Biden-Harris administration will use that to good end.

Thoko Moyo: Marshall, what do you think?

Marshall Ganz: We're seeing the association of young people with social movements. And I often quote Walter Brueggemann, who's a Protestant theologian. He wrote a book called, “The Prophetic Imagination” where he says that, "Prophetic imagination or transformational vision occurs at the intersection of two elements." One, he calls criticality, which is a clear view of the world's hurt, of its needs, of its pain, coupled with hope, a sense of its promise and its possibilities. Now, young people come of age with a critical eye on the world they find and almost of necessity, hopeful hearts. And so that combination, because one without the other is despair or irrelevance, but together the tension is what can be so transformational. The question is, which one is dominant? And if the hope side is well, then we go forward. If the criticality side is what's cooking, then it's problematic. 

I think the worst sin you can commit is to rob young people of hope, because it's to rob them of the future. That's the promise in this moment, in this time. Whether it's the Parkland kids, the young people of color, the Green New Deal folks and all of that. But the question is, are there going to be results? See, because there's a lot of energy out there. Now that is a challenge to those who are benefiting from it, like those in office. They're got to come through. If they don't come through, then it goes another direction. And so I think that is in a way what happened with some of the energy of the 60s. My first campaign was Bobby Kennedy's campaign in ‘68 and there was so much hope, but by the end of that year, boy, it was pretty tough.

Thoko Moyo: And when you say it will go, the other way is that you go back to apathy, people not wanting to be involved or-

Marshall Ganz: I think apathy is, how can I put it? Apathy is a feeling of that you can't make a difference, that it's pointless. It's a form of not having hope, it's a form of having no sense of self-efficacy. In other words, "Why should I try to say I make a difference?" And so apathy is a reflection, I think, of both institutional and moral dimensions that create a sense of powerlessness. And when you create a sense of powerlessness, yeah, all they're apathetic. Well, which came first, the apathy or the powerlessness? I think it's important to look at the powerlessness, because that has a lot to do with it. So in organizing, one of the key things you're doing is not just, "Hey, isn't it all terrible?" And you can't be flowers-in-May, but there's a definition of hope that I like that is not hokey hope. It goes back to the 12th century. Maimonides, he says, "Hope is belief in the plausibility of the possible, as opposed to the necessity of the probable." In other words, to be a realist is to recognize we live in a world in which Goliath its always probable he will win, but sometimes David does. It was improbable we would elect a black man president of this country in 2007, but it happened. It's that sense of possibility that's precious, not certainty, but possibility. And as a young person, you have to live with a sense of possibility. So that's where I think a lot of this is, but boy, people got to come through too.

Thoko Moyo: Well, this has been so inspiring. I mean, just a wonderful, wonderful discussion. I can't thank you both enough. This has been really, really, really wonderful. Thanks for listening. I hope you'll join us for our next episode. And if you'd like more information about other recent episodes, or to learn more about our podcast, please visit us at hks.harvard.edu/policycast.