On June 7, MAP President and Co-Founder Steven Olikara led a session at the National Climate Leadership Summit, co-hosted by the National Campus Leadership Council and Defend Our Future. Taking questions from a large group of student leaders from campuses across the country, Steven interviewed Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) regarding the future of climate leadership in the United States and how to activate millennials on this issue.
The Congressman discussed his personal triumphs in serving as a leader within his party on confronting climate change, how to bring Republicans to the conversation, and how millennial voices do matter in politics. In his closing remarks, Steven echoed the Congressman’s sentiments, offering that “the whole idea of millennials getting involved to reinvent and reinvigorate our Democracy is very much in the spirit of the Founding Fathers, and that torch is now passed onto our generation.”
Photo Credit: Lepaver Photography
When asked the best way to bring conservatives on board, Rep Gibson explained that "The best way is to make the argument about job creation. Republicans will come along faster when they can see that this is a way of creating jobs." Later, after receiving a similar question from a student in the audience, Rep. Gibson added the importance of "making climate change real, avoiding getting emotional, and focus on breaking the issue down into its substantive impacts."
Steven also asked Rep. Gibson how he dealt with backlash from the Republican party about his environmental efforts. The Congressman responded by putting party politics aside and reminding the audience that the true role of a representative is to be a public servant: "I thought it was important to lead. I'm a representative, and I have a strong voice for my people. I had a responsibility to my people to explain what it is that I'm seeing, and then to get feedback."
The session closed with a final question from an audience member, who wanted to hear the Congressman's thoughts on how millennial Americans can best communicate with their representatives. Echoing his earlier statements, Rep. Gibson reminded the audience that it is the job of their representatives to first listen to what constituents have to say, and then bring those concerns and issues back to Washington. He closed with his advice to the young leaders in attendance, saying "Attend forums like these, have a one-on-one with your representatives, write them letters, and they will listen to what you have to say."