Future Caucus Celebrates a Decade of Success with Rising Star Awards

January 23, 2024

By Pamela Goldsmith

Marking a decade milestone on December 12, Future Caucus held its sixth annual Rising Star Awards ceremony at The Recording Industry of America Association (RIAA) in Washington, D.C., bringing together over 300 civic leaders, sponsors, partners, and lawmakers for an evening that reflected on its transformative journey and future aspirations. 

Layla Zaidane, President and CEO of Future Caucus mused on the reasons she is thinking about the future. “As we reflect on why spaces like this one matter, I can’t help but think about the future,” said Zaidane. “Together, we all have an audacious mission and bold vision: transform politics to deliver results. The efforts led by Future Caucus and our members can get us close to that better future, that bold vision. Because it will lead to improved public leadership and governance, as lawmakers are equipped with the networks and skills to lead effectively. And it will lead to increased public trust in democracy, as more people take notice of young policymakers building bridges and advancing effective solutions.”

The ceremony highlighted one Republican and one Democrat who embody Future Caucus’ vision of transcending toxic polarization. The award honors rising Gen Z and millennial leaders actively shepherding bipartisan legislation that addresses critical issues facing Americans. 

Zaidane expressed gratitude to those who stepped up to power the vision of Future Caucus, including the Rising Star awardees. She emphasized their commitment as integral to the organization’s plans for scaling up over the coming years, enabling the pursuit of ambitious goals. 

“The many lawmakers daring to dream of a better future, you in this room tonight, are what will make the difference,” said Zaidane. “Together, we can redefine the political narrative, proving that having different beliefs while cooperating on solutions is not only possible, but is the pillar of a vibrant, resilient democracy. But there’s no cavalry coming; we have to build that future ourselves.” 

Recognizing that young lawmakers are thinking about the future too, she expressed that imagining a better world they hope to shape indicates true leadership — a defining trait of Future Caucus’ network of young legislators — running toward problems that surface within their political environment. 

Congressman Maxwell Frost (D-FL), the first Gen Z member elected to Congress was presented with Future Caucus’ inaugural Generational Changemaker Award.

A special guest at the evening’s event was Congressman Maxwell Frost (D-FL), the first Gen Z member elected to Congress. Presented with Future Caucus’ inaugural Generational Changemaker Award, Frost was recognized for his dedication to fighting for change on behalf of a generation. An outspoken leader, his time in office has demonstrated leadership on myriad of issues that resonate with young people. He most recently led bipartisan policy to ensure our country is better prepared for natural disasters like hurricanes. 

Congressman Frost shared his personal remarks on the promise of generational change and collaborative leadership, speaking about his hope for the future of democracy. 

“Anyone who is willing to do work in a bipartisan way around protecting our democracy, protecting our civil rights and liberties, is doing really important work, especially now. Because what we’ve seen over the last few years is just how fragile our democracy really is. We can agree to disagree on the issues, but we cannot agree to disagree on democracy. We need more people focused [on working in a bipartisan way] from the right wing — from the left wing; it’s something that should tie us all together. Democracy shouldn’t belong to one party. It belongs to all of us.”  — Rep. Maxwell Frost

Keynote speaker, Adam Met, the “A” in the band AJR is the newest addition to Future Caucus’ Advisory Board.

Keynote speaker at the event was Adam Met, founder and Executive Director of Planet Reimagined, renowned for its bipartisan approach to reshaping U.S. clean energy policy through the power of media, entertainment, and fellowships that connect young researchers with advocates, teaching them how to make measurable impact in the climate solutions space. Met is also the “A” in the band AJR, that’s achieved 6x platinum status, and the newest addition to Future Caucus’ Advisory Board. 

Met shared insights into his inspiration for joining Future Caucus’ advisory board and highlighted the impactful work of his environmental nonprofit with the organization’s policy Innovation Lab. 

“The future of American politics is one I find hopeful and exciting because we have more young people than ever who are engaged. Future Caucus facilitates that by focusing on both the involvement of young people, which we need more of, and education — bringing creative ideas to policymakers. The work of the Innovation Lab is incredible because it connects experts from different fields to work with legislators and educates them on ways to bring both parties to the table, especially regarding issues like energy and the environment. Providing state lawmakers with the education and tools for advancing policies helps them implement legislation in their states.”  — Adam Met, Founder, Planet Reimagined

The ceremony recognized Rising Star awardees, Delaware State Representative Michael F. Smith and Georgia State Representative Dr. Jasmine Clark, left. The Cherisse Eatmon Collective Impact Award was presented to the Vermont Future Caucus, accepted by Representative Mary-Katherine Stone and Representative Casey Toof, right.

The ceremony recognized Rising Star awardees, Georgia State Representative Dr. Jasmine Clark (D) and Delaware State Representative Michael F. Smith (R). Both representatives lead a bipartisan caucus of young lawmakers in their respective states; they convene young, innovative legislators from both sides of the aisle to work together on policy issues impacting their constituents through local Future Caucus chapters.

The Democrat awardee, Georgia state lawmaker Representative Dr. Jasmine Clark — serving House District 108 in the Georgia State House of Representatives — was honored for her dedication to bringing her colleagues together, working across the aisle to tackle issues that matter to younger and future generations; improving k-12 education, and removing barriers to access for voters in general and primary elections. 

“I believe strongly in the vision of what Future Caucus is seeking to accomplish and wanted to be part of it because I wanted to make a difference. As a scientist, I think my background brings an important perspective to the table. As a member of the minority party in Georgia, to get things done it’s essential that I reach to the other side of the aisle — find collaborators, find people who share the vision that I share to implement important policies. The overwhelming majority of bills I have sponsored are bipartisan, representing more of what my constituents want to get done.”  – Rep. Dr. Jasmine Clark

The Republican awardee, Delaware state lawmaker Representative Michael F. Smith — serving the 22nd District in the Delaware House of Representatives — was honored for being a driving force behind Delaware’s Future Caucus, as well as his efforts to expand the state’s voter participation, and championing mental health initiatives in Delaware’s elementary and middle schools. 

“I worked to create a caucus in Delaware as our state was going through big changes. As one of eighteen new legislators in the general assembly that is getting younger, I thought it was important for us to look at issues from that lens, and create a safe environment where we can all come together and see the direction we wanted to take our state. Future Caucus has been important from an alignment perspective, bringing legislators together from across the aisle more frequently, helping us know how the other side is thinking and talking about issues, what the pain points are, and how to consider potential obstacles ahead of time.” – Rep. Michael F. Smith

The Cherisse Eatmon Collective Impact Award, recognizing an outstanding state Future Caucus for their future-focused leadership and political bridge-building, was presented to the Vermont Future Caucus. Vermont’s Caucus continuously demonstrated their commitment to cutting across the partisan divide, and last year working collaboratively on significant criminal justice reform issues. The state caucus awardees included co-chairs Rep. Casey Toof, and Sen. Becca White. 

“The Vermont Future Caucus spent the past year revitalizing the caucus with a large, new class of legislators on the younger side of the spectrum. Comprising a diverse set of mindsets, Vermont’s caucus focused on issues surrounding criminal justice reform, scrutinizing legislative pay, and addressing how to best advance bills affecting Vermonters, such as education funding and affordable housing for a younger generation.” – Rep. Casey Toof

The awards ceremony was immediately followed with a Future Caucus toast during its 10 Years Rising celebration at Succotash, around the corner from the RIAA. The event featured remarks from Millennial Action Project (MAP) founder, Steven Olikara, as he offered reflections on the 10-year journey of the organization to create essential partnerships in Congress and state capitals across the country. 

Zaidane expressed her gratitude to all who have been part of the organization’s decade- long journey, recognizing Olikara as not only the founder of Millennial Action Project but her friend.

“Steven had an incredible vision when he founded this work, and is here tonight to help celebrate the movement he started, that young lawmakers powered, and that each of you helped to grow,” said Zaidane. “Together, we have shaped Future Caucus into the nation’s largest cross-partisan network of Gen Z and millennial lawmakers. So — cheers to the first 10 years and to the next 10.”

Rep. Sara Jacobs


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