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Tom HamiltonThis month’s Young Dem is a truly inspiring person.  He started The Activate Idaho Initiative to engage activists between traditional election cycles and to train volunteers into future leaders and staffers. Between helping out with local elections and running a volunteer organization, it’s a wonder Tom even had the time to do the interview:

Tell us a bit about yourself. What you’re doing now and how you got involved?

I come from an apolitical family. We never discussed politics and it didn’t seen to matter. I didn’t learn that I had been raised on food stamps until I was a teenager but once my eyes were opened it was impossible not to take a stand. At first I kept my thoughts to myself, but eventually I became the most outspoken democrat I knew. That led to volunteerism, which in turn led to a position as a staffer on the Obama campaign. Recently I worked on the Nicole LeFavour for Congress campaign then the Greater Boise Auditorium District races where I helped to win 2 out of 3 seats that were up for election. I started The Activate Idaho initiative to engage activists between traditional election cycles and to train our volunteers into future leaders and staffers. If you want to put people power to work in your community, I’m happy to help! I can be reached at tjeromehamilton@gmail.com

What made you want to get involved in politics? And what was your first political experience like?

To be brief, George W. Bush. My first step was volunteering to host events for MoveOn.org  in 2006. It was thrilling to realize that I could make a real contribution despite having no experience in the political world.

Who is/was your greatest political inspiration? Why?

My inspiration comes from the volunteers I meet. These people give their time, energy and talent to make the world a better place and they do it all for the sake of people they’ve never met. I’m grateful that i get to work with passionate people that believe in making a difference.

How would you like to see young people get involved with politics?

I think local, electoral politics is the best way to make a difference. Issue organizing is great, but getting the right people elected is how we make progress on multiple issues at a time. One person can have a big impact on a smaller election and I’d love for young people to experience that for themselves.

What words of wisdom would you give these young people?

We don’t do these things because they’re easy; we do them because they matter. Calling strangers, knocking on doors in your neighborhood, taking a stand at all, can all be hard. It opens up the possibility of conflict, but it also opens up dialogue and the possibility of understanding. Our political discourse doesn’t have to be negative. If we take control of the conversation, then it can be the civil, healthy, and earnest civic dialogue that our country needs.

As the popularity and power of the internet grows more and more people can get involved from the comfort of their homes. What potential does this convenience have? Pros? Cons?

The internet, data, and meta-data have already revolutionized the art of campaigning but one thing that will never change is the importance of human interaction. Whether you do that on Facebook or on someone’s doorstep doesn’t especially matter so long as you take the time to discuss the important issues and make sure people vote.

What are your main issues of concern in regards to the state or federal government?

My greatest concern is the outrageous wealth inequality perpetuated by morally bankrupt politicians and our broken campaign finance system. My goal is to harness people power to elect officials that aren’t as beholden to special interests so they can deliver the reform we need.

What direction would you like to see the Idaho Democratic party heading?

More than anything I want to see the Idaho Dems develop their own unique brand, separate from the national party. Voters deserve an alternative to the extremist Republicans and I’m confident they’ll like what they see in the Idaho Dems if they can be persuaded to give us a chance.

This newsletter reaches many active and inactive Democrats across Idaho, as such, is there anything you would like to say or share with these folks?

We’ll get the change we want only when we change what we’ve been doing. If you don’t volunteer or donate, it’s time to start. If you don’t discuss your views, it’s time to start. Let’s change what being a Democrat in Idaho means.

IDYD