What they're thinking: Motivating millennials more about community than politics

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IOWA CITY — Kyra Seay shies away from being called a political person, but she’s not shy about telling her peers — millennials — they should get involved in their communities.

Seay, 24, a University of Iowa graduate who does research and strategic planning for the UI’s Chief Diversity Office, is one of three people who will give short TED-style talks at the Political Party, an Oct. 7 street party in downtown Iowa City.

The event, which also features free beer and live music, is aimed at engaging young people in volunteering, voting and running for office. Seay agreed to give us a preview of her talk, “Dear youth, the power is yours.”

Q: What do you do for the UI’s Chief Diversity Office?

A: “I do a lot of research around communication, strategic initiatives and pretty much programs in general about how we can better be connected to the university community and the community at large. I put on programs that help build community and make it a more inclusive space. For example, I was the lead for the Iowa Edge Program, which is for first-generation students.”

Q: One of your college degrees was in entrepreneurship and social innovation. Do you maintain those connections?

A: “I’m all for entrepreneurship as well as encouraging folks who come from backgrounds you don’t often see in business. I get to work on creative programs for students of color to encourage them in entrepreneurship. The leadership over in the business college are mentors of mine and have been for a long time.”

Q: Give us a sneak peek into your talk.

A: “I’m definitely going to use my journey as a springboard to talk about empowering yourself and others to engage and be aware and make a difference. I’ll probably talk a little bit about seeing yourself as a leader, whether or not you hold some sort of title. Although I think people should be educated voters, you don’t have to understand everything before you put your chip on the table.”

Q: To what degree do you consider yourself a political person?

A: “I don’t consider myself a political person. I consider myself a member of this society, this community. We have systems in place that are political and I engage in those to a degree to make my voice heard, but I don’t consider myself a political person, per se. That’s what’s really cool about the Political Party, because it’s inviting people to rally around the issues that matter.”

Q: What issues do you think transcend political parties for millennials?

A: “Millennials are feeling the struggle around paying for education and the struggle around access to education. But the answer, the solution, may be different. There are things that are more relevant and a front-burner for millennials: education, mistreatment and racial profiling or religious profiling and gun policy.”

Q: What does it take to get — and keep — millennials involved in politics?

A: “We are a moving, breathing diverse group of people with a variety of experiences. Something that I know does work is engaging. No millennial wants to hear from someone who can’t connect or who they’ve never seen before tell them what they want. It’s more about dialogue and investment. When millennials get fired up, they are passionate changemakers.”

If you go

What: The Political Party, a nonpartisan, outdoor event to increase civic engagement among young people.

When: 7:30-10 p.m. Oct. 7.

Where: Dubuque Street, between Iowa Avenue and Jefferson Street, in downtown Iowa City.

Cost: Free, first 75 people 21 and over get a free beer

RSVP: Organizers would like people to register if they plan to attend. Go to www.eventbrite.com and search for Political Party in Iowa City next month.

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