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New Platforms & Youth Voices: Berks Young Delegates’ Insight Into 2020 DNC

By Mady Johnston, BCTV

Sep 09, 2020

On August 17-20, 2020, two young Pennsylvania delegates, Raquel Capellan (25) and Luke Myers (22), represented Berks County Democrats at the Democratic National Convention. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s DNC was delayed by two months and redesigned to be held virtually. Despite the new format making it difficult to participate in some circumstances, it also revealed opportunities for youth and community representation in national politics and healthy political discourse.

At the DNC, delegates would participate in trainings and meetings with fellow delegates, politicians, and coalitions, as well as voting on the party platform and nominating a party candidate. These same events took place virtually via Zoom, phone call, and other digital platforms. However, the lack of direct personal interaction created a disconnect and desire for greater participation.

According to Myers, “The way things played out this year, most of us were staring at a screen with no meaningful opportunity for us to contribute… We were doing the webinar format, so we were just logged on and [the moderators] were talking at us.”

Still, this did not deter Myers and Capellan from making the most of their experience at the 2020 DNC. For Capellan, it was a unique experience that opened many opportunities. “I got to participate in voting, meetings, trainings, etc. hosted by Wisconsin Democratic Party,” Capellan said. I got to participate in Zoom calls and meetings with representatives, congresspersons, the DNC chair [Tom Perez], Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA), and more.”

The biggest highlight for Capellan was her involvement with the Youth Delegates Coalition, a non-partisan coalition of delegates under 35 that advocates for youth participation in national politics and elevating and empowering young voices. “We got to generate ideas, talk strategy. It even made national media.” Through her participation with the YDC, she got the opportunity to interview Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-PA) on Instagram Live.

Despite the 2020 DNC having gone virtual, the experience still provided valuable takeaways and provided insight into grassroots efforts to increase diverse youth involvement in the political sector. For Myers, the DNC became an example of the power of organizing. Myers, a delegate for the Bernie Sanders (D-VT) campaign, was one of over 1,000 delegates to vote “no” on the party platform.

According to Myers, “[Voting “no” on the party platform] was arranged by the Nevada state delegation. They were able to reach out to delegates all over the country and organize 1,000 different delegates to vote “no” on the party platform.”

Both Capellan and Myers ran as delegates for the Bernie Sanders (D-VT) campaign and needed to gather 250 petition signatures each to get on the ballot in June. Capellan was also endorsed by Make the Road Action. Through her petitioning and campaign efforts, she found the value of embracing difference and how it can heal oneself and one’s community.

“It is about doing your best to be introspective… When the individual heals, so does the collective. It is about the betterment of the world, of the people around you. It is about faith and humanity, regardless of affiliation.”

For Myers, “As a 22-year-old from Berks County, being able to find myself in the convention space… is a testament to how accessible those spaces can be when you take the time to try and get there. I would urge people to involve themselves in the political process and push for the things that they want from our government.”

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