BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Steven Olikara, founder and president of the Millennial Action Project
March 24, 2020
A trend he thinks doesn’t get enough attention: “There is a rising wave of millennial lawmakers, not yet on the media’s radar, who are refusing to look at issues through a traditional left vs. right lens and instead are building unlikely coalitions using a future vs. past frame.
How/where are you celebrating your birthday and with whom?
“A few birthdays ago, my friends and I came together to make a comical birthday song. We planned to perform it live this year with some special musical guests. However, due to COVID-19 precautions, we’re changing plans: We’re still performing music, but now launching an online effort: #SongsfortheSoul. Music is a powerful healer, especially in times of need, so I’m inviting everyone to perform a song at home and share video of their performance online with #SongsfortheSoul. I will post more information and release my own video today at 5:30 p.m. EDT on Twitter (@StevenOlikara) and Instagram (@stevenolikara). Make sure to tune in! And not to worry if you’re not a musician — just sing or lip-sync part of a song that moves you and share it with us using the hashtag.”
How did you get your start in your career?
“As my birthday plans suggest, I was a musician and radio DJ in Milwaukee before I became a political entrepreneur and founded the Millennial Action Project. The most profound lesson that I discovered from playing in a wide array of bands was the power of pluralism in our diverse democracy. People coming together with different influences, cultures and perspectives didn’t dilute our music — it made our art more dynamic, creative and visionary. In this era of polarization, that’s the revolutionary spirit we need in our politics. That’s why I created MAP. We’re building a new generation of political bridge-builders — focused on young elected leaders in Congress and states — to strengthen our democracy and take on generational issues that our political system has ignored for far too long, from combating climate change to creating a more functional and honest government.”
What’s an interesting book/article you’re reading during coronavirus social distancing? And why?
“‘Leadership: In Turbulent Times,’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s an incisive read on how four U.S. presidents navigated the extraordinary crises they lived through. The book’s stories are a useful guide to understand how leaders can summon our better angels in moments of great challenge.”
What’s a trend going on in the U.S. or abroad that doesn’t get enough attention?
“There is a rising wave of millennial lawmakers, not yet on the media’s radar, who are refusing to look at issues through a traditional left vs. right lens and instead are building unlikely coalitions using a future vs. past frame. These post-partisan efforts have led to a wave of successes, from passing gerrymandering reform in states to securing congressional authorization and funding for the CDC to research gun violence as a public health issue.”
How’s the Trump presidency going?
What’s a fun fact that people in Washington might not know about you?
“I mentioned my wide array of bands in Milwaukee — perhaps the most interesting was playing in an Eastern European klezmer folk band. We made it big when one of our fans took out a full-page ad for us in the Milwaukee Jewish Chronicle.”
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