“We don’t want nobody nobody sent.” These words, spoken by a Chicago ward committeeman to a young Ab Mikva as he tried to volunteer for the Stevenson/Douglas campaign in 1948, were unknowingly the beginning of Ab’s long career in politics and the genesis of what would become the Mikva Challenge.
We believe that the people who have the greatest stake in our democracy are often the ones who are disenfranchised, something that Ab recognized long ago. At Mikva, we will double down on our commitment to these youth. We will stand with them to fight against hateful rhetoric and discriminatory policies. We will work with them to build a healthier, more humane and civil democracy.
What gives us hope in challenging times are the words and actions of our young people. All across the country in 35 cities, Mikva youth are giving speeches on how they want to improve their world. They focus on issues like sexual violence, immigration, youth civic participation, LGBTQ bullying, and equal opportunity. They are modeling the thoughtful, researched and empathetic discourse we need to demand from all of our public officials today. Following a presidential election campaign full of divisiveness, the need to open up our democratic process to more young people is more urgent than ever. We need to build empathy and channel the anger and disillusionment that we feel, and that our young people are experiencing, into building a stronger democracy.
As we move forward, we will continue to offer opportunities for young people to lift their voices. As an alum reminded us, “Mikva Challenge must continue to teach effective civic engagement, the kind that is needed to maintain a functioning democracy. We must continue to teach the next generation of leaders how to behave civically, and how to fight against the kind of contentious discourse and rhetoric that we experienced during this election. We must continue to show that democracy is a verb.”
We ask now that you stand with us in calling out discriminatory policies and inequities in all form. We ask that you stand with our young people who deserve your support in creating welcoming, equitable and empowering spaces.
In peace and solidarity,
Chief Executive Officer
Executive Director, Washington, DC