Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee Michael Blake (D-N.Y.), who worked on both of former President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and currently represents New York state as assemblyman of the 79th district in the Bronx, will visit campus on April 12 to share highlights of his political career.
“Given his extensive experience, we believe Blake can relate to students on campus,” said Jaia Clingham-David ’20, Cornell Democrats communications director. “We hope his speech will demonstrate what a political career dedicated to the well-being of others looks like and inspire students to get involved in politics.”
Cornell Democrats invited Blake to speak because they hope his diverse interests — which include encouraging political engagement among African American millennials along with advocating for entrepreneurship, business and education issues — will appeal to all students, according to Clingham-David.
Members of the organization first became acquainted with Blake at a College Democrats of New York event last summer, where they thought that his “charisma and experience” would be well-suited for a talk at Cornell, Clingham-David said. Later, Blake himself expressed interest to speak at the University, and the Cornell Democrats began planning the event in January.
Blake will be the first elected official still in an active position to be invited by the Cornell Democrats in recent years, so the group is “extremely excited to have such an up-and-coming force in New York politics coming to speak at Cornell,” Clingham-David said.
President of the Cornell Republicans Austin McLaughlin ’18 does not believe that the event is a response to the Cornell Republicans inviting Dick Cheney to speak on campus and believes that “first and foremost campus dialogue is important.”
“Cornell Republicans encourage our membership to attend Cornell Democrats’ events as to better understand what the other side of the aisle has to say,” McLaughlin said.
A Bronx native and son of Jamaican immigrants, Blake graduated from Northwestern University and pursued a career in journalism before entering the political arena in 2006 as an intern in the Illinois State Senate. Following the 2008 presidential election, Blake took on the role of White House associate director of public engagement and later served as national deputy operation vote director for President Obama last year.
In his role as a New York assemblyman, Blake proposed a vision of “economic development, education, and equality for all” and a goal to strengthen businesses owned by minorities and women.
Clingham-David said that the Cornell Democrats encourage all students, regardless of their academic disciplines and interests, as well as local Ithacans, to attend the event. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Uris Hall, will not require tickets and will be free and open to the public.