With floods in Pakistan and Nigeria killing thousands and displacing millions, the need for climate change reform appears to be greater than ever — and a senior from Cornell was recently invited to the White House for playing his part as an advocate through Tik Tok videos.
J.C. Dombrowski ’23, a marine biology and entomology double-major, is a social media content-creator with over 2.8 million followers on TikTok, 44,000 followers on Instagram and over 250 million TikTok likes.
Dombrowski’s social media content typically ranges from sharing ocean and marine biology facts to discussing his favorite skincare products.
His platform has also garnered him attention and opportunities from well known celebrities and the press. Among his interactions with public figures, Dombrowski has been interviewed for Bill Gates’ book, worked with Hailey Bieber on her skincare line and has been featured in Time Magazine. Most recently, the White House reached out to Dombrowski to arrange a conversation with the president.
“I was reached out to by the Climate Political Action Committee, CPAC, to go to the White House to meet President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), climate progress and how to talk to young people,” Dombrowski said.
Initially, Dombrowski did not believe it was actually the White House that was reaching out to him.
“When I first received the email from the White House during my physics lab, I thought it was a phishing scam,” Dombrowski said. “But I would rather get phished than do physics, so I responded.”
About a week after the initial invitation, Dombrowski, along with 20 other writers, activists, lawyers, media spokespeople and creators, arrived at the White House on September 13.
Dombrowski said that their planned schedule shifted because of the death of the Queen.
“This meant that we actually got to spend most of our time in the West Wing, which was an amazing privilege because usually nobody is allowed in the West Wing,” Dombrowski said. “It is very ‘hush hush,’ and we were not even allowed to have our phones on us.”
Dombrowski and colleagues later moved to the Roosevelt Room, in which they sat at a long table and spoke to the Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, before Biden came in.
“It was very, very surreal,” Dombrowski said. “I got to shake his hand, and he asked everyone in the room what their names were and where they are from. He also usually had a funny anecdote or memory about each place.”
Dombrowski was also able to ask Biden his own questions. He specifically asked about what can be done following the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in which the Court curbed the EPA’s ability to control carbon emissions.
Biden’s answer was well received by Dombrowski, who said he liked that Biden promised to focus on hiring more people of color and helping low income communities that are among the most seriously affected by climate change.
“I really liked how he pointed out the intersection between climate change, race, and class issues,” Dombrowski said. “It was a very thoughtful and intelligent response.”
After Biden left, Harris came to speak to the group. Dombrowski said she had a warm, enthusiastic manner, and that he was lucky to have been the only member of the group to be able to have conversations with both the President and Vice President.
“Vice President Harris asked me for advice because she was planning to speak at the University of Buffalo. I would have never imagined I’d be giving the Vice President of the United States advice three years ago,” Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski also said he complimented Harris on the passage of the IRA Bill, which will provide the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association with $3.3 billion in additional funding over the next five years. He said the bill has reaffirmed his faith in the sustainability and longevity of the oceans.
“I wanted her to know that I appreciate how the Administration is building a foundation for future generations,” Dombrowski said. “I want to continue to pursue and fight for climate change and ocean conservation, and this bill helps ensure that carbon emissions are reduced, which would help improve ocean temperatures, acidity, melting sea ice, and more — all of which are critical for marine conservation.”
After his experience, Dombrowski remains thankful that the Biden Administration invited him and other social media content-creators to the White House.
“Social media has now allowed me to advocate for what I’m passionate about at the highest level of our government,” said Dombrowski. “I am so thankful that social media has opened doors up for me—doors I didn’t even know existed in the first place.”