Barack Obama’s farewell speech as president had many quotable, inspirational moments. The full speech is worth a watch, but one of the most memorable calls to action was his plea for more Americans to run for office.
"If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing," said the president to a cheering crowd. "If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself."
Carrie Sheffield, a Salon contributor, discussed the process of running for office with Melissa Jane Kronfeld, who is running for office herself. Kronfeld is the CEO and founder of Party for a Purpose, an organization that seeks to create opportunities for political engagement.
“We want to lower the barrier to entry into politics,” said Kronfeld.
The barriers she mentions range from financial concerns to a lack of motivation.
Unless we do something to overcome those obstacles, Kronfeld asks, “How can we ever expect the people that really would serve us best to get in?”
Her organization wants to widen the net of who can run for office, reaching out to tech entrepreneurs and innovators, along with other people who don’t usually consider politics.
“Not only [is] the next great generation of leadership not in office yet, perhaps they haven’t even considered it,” said Kronfeld.
Research shows that 89 percent of millennials are not interested in running for political office. Why not?
“They find it argumentative and dysfunctional,” according to Jennifer Lawless, a political science professor who researches political ambition.
Kronfeld wants to change the discourse that politics is inherently ugly. She hopes to show that civil-minded campaigns exist, that they can be fun and passionate and even “beautiful.”
A heap of paperwork is involved, she admits, but it's worth it: “Just go do it.”