- College Democrats of America
College Democrats of America President Alejandra C. Salinas (TX) Vice President Jeremy Feigenbaum (RI) Director of Membership Dominique Gelin (FL) Director of Political Affairs Eliza Hernandez (NC) Director of Communications Kenzi Green (MA) Director of Programs Elsie Raymer (NY) Director of Development Andrew Slade (MA) National Council Chair Tori Taylor (NC) National Council Vice-Chair Jake Sticka (DC) National Council Secretary Gracie Brandsgard (IA) Honorary Chair Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Founded 1932 Headquarters Washington, D.C. Mother party Democratic Party Website collegedems.com
The College Democrats of America (CDA) is the official youth outreach arm of the Democratic Party. It consists of over 100,000 college and university students from across the United States. The organization has served as a way for college students to connect with the Democratic Party and Democratic campaigns and has produced many prominent liberal and progressive activists. The organizational structure of the College Democrats has changed significantly since its founding in 1932. Originally founded as a branch of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the group became independent following its split with Lyndon B. Johnson on the Vietnam War. The organization experienced a renaissance under the leadership of Al Gore and today is once more integrated with the DNC.
The College Democrats of America organization was founded in 1932 to further the election campaign of presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt. It had a good deal of success during its first decades, and claims on its website to have been "the largest student organization in the nation" during the 1940s. However, in 1967, the CDA took up a position opposing the Vietnam War; this enraged President Lyndon B. Johnson, who cut the CDA out of funding from the Democratic National Committee. It was eventually revitalized by Senator Al Gore, and by the time Gore became Bill Clinton's vice presidential nominee, there were more than 50,000 members.
Since 1992, CDA has actively promoted the Democratic legislative agenda and Democratic candidates for office. Thanks in part to the work of CDA activists, John Kerry won 54% of the youth vote in 2004.
The activities of CDA chapters vary from chapter to chapter. Typical activities include inviting guest speakers (often elected officials or party activists) to campus, organizing issue advocacy and lobbying efforts (like letter-writing campaigns or phone banks), and arranging service activities for members to attend. College Democrats chapters also often organize social events (like sporting competitions with College Republicans chapters) and other recruitment activities.
During the election season, campus chapters typically partake in campaign work. These efforts generally include voter registration drives and dorm storms to register youth voters that have just gained voter eligibility. They also include providing youth manpower to campaigns for canvassing and phone banks. During presidential years, chapters have organized proxy debates and run mock elections. On election day, chapters generally participate in get out the vote (GOTV) activities, both on-campus and in surrounding communities.
Every year, the national organization of the CDA holds a national convention. These conventions include meetings for CDA's standing committees (like the constitution committee) and CDA's national caucuses (like the women's caucus) as well as the elections for CDA's National Executive Board. The convention also offers workshops on how to be effective in government and campaigning, and prominent speakers from the national Democratic party (previous speakers have included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Nancy Pelosi, members of Congress, and Cabinet members). The CDA convention that occurs on presidential election years is typically held in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention.
The national organization is overseen by the CDA Executive Board. The function of the Executive Board is officially to "determine and implement the organization's goals"; its members are elected annually at the national convention. Pursuant to the CDA Constitution, each local chapter receives three (3) votes, each state federation receives two (2) votes and each member of the outgoing Executive Board receives one (1) vote. More than 600 members attended the 2008 convention.
CDA is also guided by a National Council, which consists of state officers from every state federation. The National Council is presided over by a Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary, also elected annually at the national convention. The National Council Chair serves as a voting member of the Executive Board. The day-to-day operations of CDA are handled by the Executive Director.
Notable College Democrats
- Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
- Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
- Former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe
- U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
- U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar
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