As a summer intern for American Promise, Nikki Naquin offers a helping hand in every corner of the movement to end the influence of big money in politics. While Nikki devotes most of her time to the Citizen’s Empowerment Department, she supports the success of the organization on all fronts.
Nikki wants to energize other young people to reclaim their voice in politics, a passion that aligns with her responsibilities as an intern. From researching political issues to emailing APA leaders, she takes on a diverse workload to facilitate the passage of the 28th Amendment. Read on to learn how Nikki’s dedication to political change fits into her work at American Promise.
Why is American Promise’s work important to you?
For me, American Promise is not just an organization; it is a realized ideal. By tackling campaign finance reform through grassroots organizing, American Promise puts into practice the American political ideal of citizen-initiated institutional reform—something often spoken of and lauded, but rarely put into action.
Though it can be argued that American Promise is a single-issue non-profit, the influence of its work cannot be disentangled from other greater issues surrounding our current democratic system. Campaign finance reform is an issue that impacts all aspects of our government, which is why American Promise is one of the few organizations that can truly claim to be working on democratic reform as a whole. That is why I’m excited about working here; I know that the results of our work will spread beyond our movement and influence the overall development of America’s democracy.
Why do you encourage people across America to join the movement to promote the 28th Amendment?
Major campaign finance reform would sanctify the political power of everyday citizens and protect public offices from people who want to serve their own interests, not the interests of the people. So much work needs to be done regarding campaign finance reform, and none of that work can be done without support from the public. These solutions take time and energy to develop and actualize, so in order to see the changes we wish to see, we need to act now.
What are your primary responsibilities as an American Promise intern?
As an intern, my responsibilities are as varied as the respective responsibilities of my coworkers. I work mostly with the Citizen’s Empowerment Department, and my work varies even within that subset of our organization.
On an average day, I jump between three to five assignments given to me by my colleagues, all of which correspond to and support the work that they’re doing. I may begin the day by compiling a list of D.C. area student leaders for our Outreach Manager Wambui Gatheru, and while doing so I may stop to research major issues in Northern Virginia politics for a project that Azor Cole, our State Manager, is working on. After lunch (usually at Bon Me or Kendall Kitchen!), I’ll compile a spreadsheet that details the processes for creating citizen’s initiatives in our priority states. That spreadsheet would help our Citizen Empowerment Coordinators, Kimberly and Rosie, with their grassroots organizing efforts. Lastly, I may send follow-up emails to various APA leaders regarding a newsletter piece that our media team would like to feature them in.
By jumping between these varied tasks, I’m learning how to multitask while completing assignments in a timely and efficient manner. I find joy in knowing that my work is helping to create a democracy that I hope to secure for the future.
Why do the young people you meet across America care about this issue?
Campaign finance reform is one of the many issues that my generation is speaking out against with a passion and ferocity that I haven’t seen in previous years. Having grown to political consciousness in an era defined by partisanship and ineffective leadership, people of my generation are compelled to create a better government that we have yet to see: one that has the interests of the American people at heart.
Though there are ideological differences among those of my generation, we seem to share the same sentiments regarding campaign finance reform: it needs to happen, and it needs to happen as soon as possible. We want our voices—the voices of students, entry-level job holders, people building the foundation of their lives—to be just as influential as the voices of those drafting our leases and determining the conditions of our student loans. My generation is claiming the power they are entitled to, because we know that one’s financial situation does not and should not affect the amount of influence one has over our democracy.
What excites me about my generation is how politically aware and active we are. Our bleak political present is motivating, rather than discouraging, young people like myself to speak for causes they believe in and build the future we want to live in.
What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the American Promise team?
I want to leave American Promise knowing that I made a measurable contribution to the organization and furthered its mission in a meaningful and impactful way.
Why is it important to you to empower citizens to help make change in our nation?
All meaningful and lasting change in this country began through citizen leadership. Iconic leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Betty Friedan and Harvey Milk rose from among the electorate, and it was the electorate that granted them their influence. The passion and desire to enact change is powered through the people.
Consider this analogy: citizens’ desire for change fuels the engine of democratic reform, and organizations such as American Promise serve as the steering wheel. It’s our job to harness citizens’ political energy and direct it toward measurable goals that pave the path to institutional reform. With their determination and our expertise, we can make substantial institutional reforms that can forever change our democracy.