Hearing 25-year-old Erin Schrode talk about her life experiences and her passion to basically save the world, you’ll ask yourself—am I doing enough?
After a 20-minute phone conversation, the thought of running for office in the future almost crossed my mind. If we’d talked for an hour, I may have started filling out the necessary paperwork.
It’s that infectious passion that’s led Schrode to run for U.S. Congress. That’s right, there’s a female millennial in the race and, if elected, she’d be the youngest person to hold office in the Capitol’s history. But her youth doesn’t mean she’s inexperienced. While Schrode doesn’t have the implied requirements for a candidate (time in local/state legislature, military service, etc.), that doesn’t mean she’s an ingenue.
“I don’t have decades of experience in business, I don’t have high degrees and I don’t have 10 million dollars sitting in the bank,” she said. “But I do have life experience—not the experience everyone has come to expect from a politician.”
The California candidate started an environmental non-profit called Turning Green about a decade ago, she helped out in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, she’s volunteered the Middle East and West Africa, and even worked with refugees in Greece and Macedonia.
Now, she’s got her sights set on the Capitol.
It wasn’t something she’d really considered until she gave a speech in the Bay Area and several people came up to her afterward, encouraging her to run for office. After consulting with “smart people” and then her BFF, she decided to go for it.
“We’re running to make running mean something. We’re running to reinvigorate the culture of public service and to expand the meaning of the word ‘politician,’” Schrode says.
Because of her life experiences, Schrode believes she’ll be more effective on the policy side. She’s running as a Democrat to represent California’s second district, which stretches from the Golden Gate bridge to the Oregon border.
Her platform is an extension of things she’s already been fighting for, like creating more accountability for every day toxic exposure by creating better labeling and transparency. She’s a proponent of equal pay, paid family leave for mothers, fathers and caregivers, as well as ensuring better access to public health for women.
“We cannot let Roe v. Wade go,” she says. “We can’t allow states to choose if women have the right choose.”
Schrode also wants to overhaul the education system, from student debt to better preparing people for the changing landscape in the job market, as more and more industries disappear. Both are personal to her, as someone who took out loans in college and whose parents worked multiple jobs to put food on the table.
Schrode also thinks she’d be effective with changing the criminal justice system. The first time she actually protested was after Eric Garner died in Staten Island after a police officer put him in a chokehold. She wants to not to only address police brutality but also push for offender reforms.
“It’s a massive crusade of mine where I can have an impact,” she says. “[We need] the reduction of mandatory minimums and to get small offenders out of our prison system.”
Her crusading has sparked a lot of interest among millennials, who are often disillusioned with “politics as usual.” Schrode’s someone who knows their struggles and passions because she’s part of that generation. People often go for candidates who share their values, but it can be hard to relate to billionaires who are decades older and didn’t grow up in a rapidly changing economic market, spurned by technological advances.
The youngest person in Congress right now is 31-year-old Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-New York) and looking at a history of candidates in Schrode’s district shows a bunch of older, white males holding the office.
So, why run now when most people wait until at least age 30 to run for local office, let alone of the highest offices in the federal government? The question gets a very passionate response from the candidate:
“Are you aware of the political climate in our country? We have such a gross partisan divide. Our politics are so stagnant and policies so broken,”Schrode says. “I refuse to wait and watch any longer. I think we and can do more and we must do more.”
You can find out more about Erin Schrode by visiting her website.