January 30, 2006
Michael Taylor ’05, former Ithaca alderperson and Gayraud Townsend ’05 (D-4th Ward) were honored earlier this month as members of the steering committee of The Young Elected Officials Network, a burgeoning progressive political organization. The Inaugural Convening of the YEO Network, entitled “A New Generation of Leaders on the Front Lines of Change,” was held in Washington, D.C., from Jan. 13-15.
“This is a good cause – it’s something desperately needed in this country given the current state of political affairs,” Townsend said. “One-third of the working poor and a majority of those without health insurance are young people.”
Andrew Gillum, Vice-Mayor of Tallahassee, Fl., who is under 35 and therefore a young elected official himself, initiated research for the YEO Network in September 2005. In a telephone interview, Gillum said that while in office he was hard pressed to find another progressive young official. He elaborated on the differences between younger and older elected officials, saying that the YEO Network isn’t about ageism, but that the two groups “aren’t cut from the same cloth.” He added that older elected officials believe they are public servants, while YEOs do not feel the same way.
“This is a brand new thing. The goal is to collectively bring young people together,” said Taylor, whose term on the Ithaca Common Council ended Dec. 31.
The YEO Network has compiled a database of 177 YEOs. 64 of these officials were invited to attend the conference. But according to a report by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, there are many more progressive YEOs in the country. 63 percent of U.S. presidents and half of today’s governors, congressmen and senators were under 35 when they first became involved in politics, making them YEOs.
“[These numbers] suggest an informal pipeline of leadership,” Gillum said.
The conference schedule included issues workshop sessions on healthcare, public education and taxes and budgets, as well as skills workshops on maintaining networks, media relations and campaign fundraising.
Since many elected officials are over 35, the YEO Network and its complementary organization, Young People for the American Way, act as support and stability for YEOs, so they do not feel alone throughout their terms in office.
The members of the steering committee addressed the challenge of writing a mission statement, questioning if the YEO Network is a good thing and what the network’s vision and long-term focus should be, Townsend said.
Speakers at the conference included Jason West, the maverick young mayor of New Paltz, NY, a town not unlike Ithaca, given its young population and proximity to a large university, who made national headlines for marrying gay couples. Townsend sees a parallel between Ithaca and New Paltz and sees potential for a young mayor in Ithaca.
The conference wasn’t strictly business. The steering committee members had the opportunity to share their experiences in politics at breakfasts and break sessions. Gillum said interaction among YEOs was a prime goal at the conference. The Network teaches YEOs not only about the public official side, but also about how to balance life and work.
Townsend did not know what to expect before arriving in Washington, but found his fellow young elected officials “passionate about the issues of everyday who would do what it takes to represent young people.”
“The conference has made me more confident as an elected official, Townsend said. “It has shown me what I’m doing has really mattered.”
Archived article by Jessica DiNapoli Sun Staff Writer
January 30, 2006
NEW YORK – When George Boiardi ’04 died as the result of a blow to the chest during a lacrosse game in March 2004, the Cornell community was shocked and saddened.
One of four captains of the men’s lacrosse team, Boiardi, a history major, was just two months from graduation and had committed to joining the charter group of Teach for America’s South Dakota corps in June of that year.
“The accident blindsided all of us,” said Jesse Rothstein ’03, a friend and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brother of Boiardi. “We didn’t know what to say, what to do. It was a hard time for all of us.”
It wasn’t long after Boiardi’s Washington D.C. funeral that Rothstein came upon the ESPN documentary Flashing Before My Eyes on television. The movie, based on the book of the same name by the late Dick Schaap ’55, chronicles Schaap’s career as a sports journalist, author and media personality.
“I’d been fascinated with Dick Schaap for a long time, and I’d seen Flashing Before My Eyes, a few times before,” Rothstein told a group of 190 friends and supporters on Friday night at the Cornell Club in New York City at the first annual 21 Dinner. “But when I saw Flashing Before My Eyes again not long after George’s funeral, I realized that both Dick and George had worn the number 21 for Cornell.”
According to Rothstein, the similarities between the two late Cornellians don’t end there, and he created the 21 Dinner as a way to honor Schaap and Boiardi.
“Both George and Dick had a desire to give back, to care for others and be selfless,” Rothstein said. “After George passed, I knew I wanted to create something that would celebrate their legacies and give back to society.”
Conceived as a fundraiser for Teach for America-South Dakota, the evening featured speeches from Wendy Kopp, President and Founder of Teach for America; Richard Bordeaux, superintendent of the Todd County Schools, located on South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation; Ryan Wise, the Executive Director of Teach for America-South Dakota; and a keynote speech from Dick Schaap’s son, ESPN anchor and journalist Jeremy Schaap ’91.
“The sacrifices of young, talented people like George are helping to fix the inequities that exist along socio-economic lines in this country,” said Kopp, who also expressed her sadness at never having had the opportunity to meet Boiardi.
Wise, who met with Boiardi’s parents, Mario and Deborah Boiardi, in South Dakota not long after their son’s death, spoke of the commitment and courage it takes to dedicate oneself to the Teach for America corps.
Echoing the theme of courage, Bordeaux presented the Boiardis with a red and white star quilt, and explained that it was sewn by Lakota grandmothers in honor of their son.
According to Bordeaux, there are four chief virtues in Lakota culture: courage, wisdom, fortitude and generosity.
“From what I’ve learned about these two men [Dick Schaap and George Boiardi], they exemplified these virtues,” he said.
Jeremy Schaap’s keynote speech was both humorous and contemplative, and paid tribute both his late father and Boiardi, drawing further parallels between the two men and their service to Cornell and to society.
“He was fantastic,” Rothstein said of Schaap’s keynote address. “His speech connected both his father and George through the history of Cornell.”
Schaap has agreed to speak at the 21 Dinner in the future, according to Rothstein, and plans are already in the works for next year’s installment.
“We have begun the planning already and we’ll make a formal announcement of a date and place sometime over the next month,” Rothstein told The Sun in an email.
“I can’t wait to come back next year,” said Dean Cocarro ’04, a friend and fraternity brother of Boiardi and Rothstein. “This was truly an amazing evening.”
Archived article by Nate Brown Special to The Sun