This post was featured on the HRC Blog.
Last Wednesday, myself and 24 other HRC interns attended Generation Progress’s Make Progress National Summit 2013 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C. It was an exciting day filled with influential speakers and nearly 1,000 young people from across the nation.
The day started off with an empowering speech from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the current student debt crisis.
Student interest rates recently doubled to 6.8% due to inaction from Congress, while the government lends to major banks at less than 1%. In addition, the government will make a $51 billion profit from students this year. This has caused many students to live with their parents after graduation when they could be buying real estate and take jobs unrelated to their studies to begin paying off loans immediately.
Warren called for a major decrease in the interest rates as an investment in students, who can in turn use their education to benefit society and stimulate our economy.
“The government should not be making profit on the backs of our students,” said Warren.
Additional speakers included Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and young CEO of The New Republic and Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, who gave the HRC a special shout-out for co-sponsoring the event.
David Simas, a senior advisor to President Obama, spoke about the Affordable Care Act and its implications for those who cannot afford healthcare, those who max out their healthcare plans, those with preexisting conditions and young people.
Later, a panel featuring Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, MSNBC’s Alex Wagner and Emily’s List Executive Director of Amy Dacey addressed what it takes to be a woman in politics or the political spotlight and the importance of female representation in politics.
The summit also included breakout policy sessions in gun control, immigration, the court system, student debt and voting rights led by experts in each field from various organizations. HRC Chief Foundation Officer Jeff Krehely also joined a panel on the judicial system. He discussed the implications of the recent repeal of DOMA and Prop 8 as well as the future of the battle for LGBT equality, including high rates of homeless LGBT youth and workplace discrimination. Additional panelists addressed the importance of appointing fair-minded, diverse judges in a court system that has a desperate shortage of them.
HRC interns also attended training sessions on media and messaging, leadership and teamwork, policy creation, making “asks” in grassroots organizing and lobbying. The day ended on a high note with a speech by openly gay Senator Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin, who gave an inspiring talk on creating change, electing the right officials and empowering youth.
HRC interns left feeling impassioned and excited about our country’s future while also motivated to put in the hard work it will take to turn these ideas into reality.