Famous Friday: Yes, it’s Svante Myrick, again.
Blame him for being awesome. This is my fourth feature on Svante Myrick in as many years, and I can’t promise that it will be the last. In fact, I may promise it won’t be! Svante Myrick, who has become a friend and mentor of mine and a great supporter of Project RACE, earned another landslide election victory on Tuesday and Project RACE wants to congratulate and celebrate him!
While many urged him to run for a more prominent position, Mayor Myrick loves his city and his job, so with over 77 percent of the vote, he now prepares for his third term as mayor of Ithaca, New York, which has been named “New York’s most liberal city” and “America’s most enlightened town”. If you are new to Project RACE, and not familiar with this brilliant public servant, let me give you a quick run-down of some highlights. Elected to city council as a 20-year-old Cornell student, Svante went on to beat out three other candidates to become (the youngest ever, first of color) mayor of Ithaca at just 24 years old. By all measures, he was incredibly successful in his first term and was reelected with a whopping 89 percent of the vote. With Svante at the helm, Ithaca has led the State of New York and the country in many important achievements. Whether your key issues are employment, tax rates, affordable housing, infrastructure, the opioid epidemic, or the refugee crisis, he has creative and effective solutions. These are some of the things that have gained Svante national recognition and respect that far exceeds what one might expect for the mayor of a city of 31,000 people. But these are also things that you can find out with a quick Google search. I want to share with our Project RACE members and readers a few things you may not know about this amazing politician who remains humble despite catching the attention of the country and national media like Rolling Stone, Forbes and Time Magazine.
Last year I published an interview with Svante. In it, I asked him to support Multiracial Heritage Week with a proclamation and invited him to come to Cleveland to speak at my school. He did both! Svante issued MHW proclamations in 2018 and 2019, when he gave us our first proclamation of the year. He got us off to a great start this year as, in addition to several cities and the District of Columbia, we’ve now received proclamations from 17 US governors, 9 Democrats and 8 Republicans! Where else do you see that kind of bipartisanship?
The timing may have been pure coincidence, but Svante accepted my invitation to come to Cleveland in April, the week of my birthday, and it felt like a gift! It was a really special visit and meant so much for him to take the day out of his busy schedule. I got to introduce him to my entire school community. His personal story is inspiring, and he gives very thoughtful answers to the questions he is asked. Several students and faculty who have taught at my school for many years say his was the best morning assembly talk they’ve ever heard! He also spoke with an English class and had lunch with our African American affinity group. After all the school activities, he and I spent the afternoon exploring Cleveland and had such a great time. We went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Westside Market, and Cleveland’s Ithaca Street… who knew? I also got to take him to the International Newcomers Academy and introduce him to another one of my mentors, Joe Cimperman the President of Global Cleveland. One exciting moment was overhearing Svante take a call from a top presidential candidate seeking his endorsement and learning that this candidate was one of at least three who had already done so. Svante may serve as mayor of a mid-sized city, but he is a major national leader.
I am grateful that as a young government leader and head of the national Young Elected Officials Network, Svante believes strongly in the power of youth and makes a point of engaging with and investing in us. He has lots of wisdom to share with young people who want to make an impact because, he says, “young people have such energy and creativity and we need more of it.”
“Taking a leadership role as a student, both in high school and in college, gave me practice for the weight of responsibility. That feeling of having other folks rely on you to help make their life just a little bit better is a big deal, and it can be intimidating. It’s still intimidating at times. But I think that the experiences that I had as a student activist taught me how to live and operate with pressure. You begin to feel a sense of responsibility for your community and it’s a good thing,” he told me.
“You know, people will always have prejudices,” he continued. “They’ll look at you and they’ll find you too young or too old or too tall or too short. Or too whatever. But the best thing you can do is just show them through work and through effort that you can be taken seriously. So I just tried to show up to meetings early, always be prepared, and I tried to demonstrate how serious I was by working harder than any other and I think that’s the sort of thing you need to do, especially if you’re the youngest person.”
Powerful advice. I am so thankful to have Svante Myrick as a role model and friend and to have the opportunity to share about him with all of you. Stay tuned. I am confident there is much more to come.
- Karson Baldwin, President Project RACE Teens