Generation Z is defying the stereotype that young people are disengaged from politics, and many young candidates are aiming to oust longtime elected leaders, antiviolence activist David Hogg said at the Globe Summit on Wednesday.
Hogg, 23, who survived the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and went on to help found the gun-control advocacy group March for Our Lives, is now a cofounder of Leaders We Deserve, a political action committee dedicated to electing young, progressive candidates, he told Globe medical and biotech editor Anna Kuchment.
“Really, the idea behind Leaders We Deserve is to be an investment in the future,” Hogg said. “I think young people have the most valuable asset that anybody can have in politics on their side, which is time, which is something that not even the Koch brothers can buy more of.”
Charles Koch, 87, and his brother David, who died in 2019, are the billionaire donors behind conservative efforts such as Americans for Prosperity, a super PAC that has spent millions supporting Republican candidates.
Hogg and his peers are hoping to counterbalance such deep pockets through youthful energy and grassroots organizing. Leaders We Deserve works to elect candidates 35 and younger to national office and those 30 and younger to local and state offices, the PAC’s primary focus, he said.
The organization is particularly interested in red and red-leaning states such as Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia, he said.
“The idea behind Leaders We Deserve is basically playing the S&P 500 of creating change with these candidates, by investing them in different levels of government and playing the long game here, knowing that . . . we’re not going to flip the top of the state Legislature right now, obviously,” Hogg said. But if “we elect these young people now, maybe we can give our generation some more of the faith that they need to have in democracy.”
Hogg spoke in the early afternoon at the Globe Summit, which brings together influential figures across many fields for three days to consider some of the greatest challenges society faces. This year’s summit, with the theme “Today’s Innovators, Tomorrow’s Leaders,” continues through Thursday at WBUR CitySpace and livestreams at globesummit2023.splashthat.com.
Hogg said many young people have been drawn into politics out of a feeling of grim necessity.
“The reason we’ve been voting at such high numbers is not because we’re incredibly hopeful about democracy,” he said. “It’s not because we have some great civic obligation and love of voting. It’s because we are terrified.
“We’re terrified of the direction our country is going in,” he continued. “We’re terrified of the direction our planet is going in, the threats that our schools face, the threats that our communities face, whether that be directly through gun violence or in different forms, [including] violence through policy, like ‘don’t say gay’ laws and others.”
Electing more young people who represent the diversity and the concerns of Gen Z will help allay some of those fears, he said.
“I see with Leaders We Deserve the chance to bring our generation and these movements to the inside of politics,” Hogg said, “and give our generation the hope that we need by seeing ourselves reflected in office, by electing more people to not only reflect our generation but reflect our values.”