Tulane Hosts College Democrats of America Summer Convention

Amy Nankin, News Editor

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Tulane University hosted the 60th annual College Democrats of America Summer Convention Sept. 6-8. Around 450 college students and recent graduates representing 30 different state federations attended the convention. This was the largest summer convention turnout the organization has seen in the past five years. With nationally-known speakers like former Georgia House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams and U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, the convention was largely deemed a success by attendees. 

While the College Democrats of Louisiana federation is only in its second year of existence, making it one of the newest federations, Tulane students applied and were given a bid to host the Summer Convention this year. With the Louisiana 2019 gubernatorial election set for Oct. 12, the convention came at an important time for many politicians and student voters alike. 

Courtesy of College Democrats of Louisiana

The three-day-long convention was jam-packed with keynote speakers and discussion panels. Some sessions like the Saturday night Shirley A. Chisholm dinner were open for the general public to purchase tickets, while others like the CDA Women’s Empowerment Luncheon were only open to registered guests due to space restrictions. 

Tulane junior, CDLA president and convention organizer Henry Walther emphasized trying to engage the greater New Orleans area through having the convention held at Tulane. 

“Something that I think we did well is that we incorporated a lot of social justice and community groups,” Walther said. “We had breakout sessions led by the New Orleans Abortion Fund and Planned Parenthood Gulf South that talked about reproductive justice in Louisiana. We had one that was about organizing for the climate crisis hosted by Sunrise New Orleans.”

The interaction of community organizers and powerful politicians in the same room led to the start of a meaningful change for one community group, the Congress of Day Laborers. The group approached the convention organizers with a real-time crisis and were able to schedule a time to go to the convention and present their dilemma to politicians. 

“They had a really urgent case where there was a man who was being detained by ICE and has tumors in his lungs.” Walther said. “They weren’t giving him medical care and are trying to deport him, but he will die if he gets deported. So we brought them to the convention, and we put them in touch with Congresswoman Maxine Waters and other members of Congress, and they did a Facebook live video and are boosting this message and horrible story nationally. And a lot of members of Congress are now doing work behind the scenes with other members of Congress to intervene on this case.”

In addition to breakout sessions with community groups, the convention featured award ceremonies and discussion panels. One of the highlights of the weekend was the Women’s Empowerment Luncheon where Democratic National Convention chair Donna Brazile and Attorneys General Ellen Rosemblum and Letitia James were the keynote speakers.

“After the luncheon they had a panel where they talked about the role of being an attorney general, going after the Trump administration and navigating politics as women, and some women of color, and barriers that have been put up by political institutions,” Walther said.  

While much of the convention was geared toward the empowerment of college-aged student Democrats, the weekend also had a large impact on the politicians themselves. 

Courtesy of College Democrats of Louisiana

“I think a lot of times politicians just speak to boring rooms of donors, but instead they’re in front of 500 excited college students who want to go out there and organize, and that’s exciting for them and also for us,” Walther said. “The convention exceeded my expectations, especially being one of the people who planned it. I was mentally going through all of the things that could have gone wrong, and then a lot of the things that could have gone wrong didn’t so that was a very nice surprise.”

After a productive convention, the Tulane College Democrats are looking toward the future. They are excited about a new grant they received from Blue Future, a youth-led civic engagement startup, which will assist the entire Louisiana Federation in its ability to canvas. The grant will provide funding to the eight Louisiana Democratic college clubs to lay out a new initiative of knocking on the doors of and calling all newly registered voters under the age of 20. 

Follow Tulane College Democrats on their social media platforms to stay updated on all things Democratic: @tulanedems on Instagram, Tulane College Democrats on Facebook and @TulaneDemocrats on Twitter.