I had the honor of being invited to this year's Power Shift by the organizer, Jessy Tolkan. I knew I had to be there, but I didn't really know what to expect. Jessy told me 10,000 college kids would be in attendance from all over the country. I wondered if that was really going to happen and how it was even possible!
I know from personal experience that motivating college students is a very, very hard task. College students barely ever leave their dorm rooms! I remember from personal experience! I went on a 21-city college tour before Election Day to get the youth vote out, and I was shocked at how apathetic most college students were, even right before a presidential election.
From the moment I walked through the doors of the convention center in D.C., I knew that I was witnessing a significant moment in the history of the youth movement in this country. Jessy was actually a bit off with her numbers and Power Shift attracted a whopping 12,000 college students from all over the map!!! Let me say that again... 12,000 college students from every state came to D.C. for POWER SHIFT!!! They took buses, planes, trains, and automobiles and ascended on D.C. like hippies going to Woodstock. Except this convention was not about running around naked in fields and mud. Power Shift '09 was a call to action for every young person to stand up and make a change in their communities. The main drive of Power Shift was to promote green issues in our government, economy, and businesses, but the idea behind it was something much greater than that one issue.
To describe the feeling of seeing 12,000 politically active college students from around America is not really possible for me to do in words. It's like taking a picture of a sunset. The picture you take is always very beautiful, but nothing beats the feeling of standing there and seeing that sunset in person. Well, I guess for me experiencing Power Shift was like watching that breath-taking sunset. It was an event so powerful that I knew my words and pictures could not really do the actual event justice. I will try my best though...
Power Shift '09 was a 4 day convention in Washington D.C. Each day there was an unbelievable amount of things to do. There were panels, speeches, and group meetings. The students were able to meet with each other and then lobby their congress people on the green issues that they deemed important in their own states. Then on Monday March 2nd, Power Shift held a massive protest outside the capitol building to make their voices heard by their political leaders. Were they heard? I think so.
Each night all the 12,000 students convened to listen to amazing speeches from huge political leaders. Check out the website for Power Shift to see all the amazing speakers and panels they had.... http://www.powershift09.org/. After the speeches were given there was a rock concert 2 nights of the convention. Santigold and The Roots performed and they were both absolutely incredible. I think it was brilliant to include huge rock stars at an event like this. It made it fresh and young and will undoubtedly get kids talking and get them to return for more next year.
Here is an amazing clip I filmed of The Roots performing at Power Shift 09 -
After The Roots performed the vibe in the convention center was amazing. Everyone was so excited to be there and so thrilled to be a part of something so amazing. My Youngest Candidate correspondent, Nic Clark, filmed this amazing clip after the show. Look at how many kids were there!
On Sunday night of Power Shift I was lucky enough to have a program slot. I showed a sneak peak of my upcoming film, The Youngest Candidate. To my surprise, Jessy Tolkan took time out of her busy Power Shift schedule to speak to the Power Shifters about my film! I was so honored to have Jessy there and I know that all the kids in attendance were so pumped by Jessy's amazing endorsement of The Youngest Candidate. Here is a clip of Jessy's speech during my program...
I also held a Q&A to discuss the issues of teens running for public office in America. My hope is that The Youngest Candidate will motivate the youth movement and I am working to use my film as a tool to get kids pumped up to take action. Being able to speak to Power Shift attendees about my project was invaluable to me. The students that came were fired up and ready to go! They were not just your average college student. Power Shift attendees were all so active already in their communities. It is very rare to be able to be surrounded by students of that age who are all so political. Power Shifters are a rare breed and I made so many amazing student contacts for my project from all over the country.
Jessy and her amazing team put together a list of leaders for college students to hear from that was unlike anything I've seen. And of course, Jessy's team was top notch. Two notables were Hayley Zachary and Leigh Arsenault. Hayley is a youth movement maven in D.C. and has her hands in everything that is millennial politics. Leigh worked on the presidential campaign and was in charge of Students for Barack Obama, which is an organization that had some pull in the last election and I think you might have heard of.
Jessy and her amazing team threw an event that I believe to be a tipping point in the youth movement in this country. They created such an incredible groundswell on college campuses around America that I know that there will be a massive Power Shift ripple effect for years to come. See you at next year's POWER SHIFT!!!