In an effort to increase youth participation in the 2012 re-election campaign of President Barack Obama, the Women Vote 2012 Summit traveled to Philadelphia and hosted campaign events at the Obama Campaign headquarters, 209 South 52nd Street, and the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Among those events was a luncheon held for 60 young women leaders at the Temple University Diamond Club on Monday. Through this event, African-American women between the ages of 18 and 21-years-old discussed empowerment, mentorship and civic engagement — and how they can help the re-election campaign.
The keynote speakers were Senior Advisor to the president Valerie Jarrett, and R&B singer Alicia Keys. Both Jarrett and Keys talked about the important role that women play both politically and socially.
Jarrett, who also serves as the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, talked about knowing the president and first lady, Michelle Obama, for 21 years. She shared a few anecdotes about the president’s upbringing, working with him and Michelle in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and his goals to advance education and heath care in the country.
“We have a leader who does not put his political objectives in front of you,” Jarrett said. “He wakes up every single morning, walks into that Oval Office and says, ‘What can I do for my girls and you to grow up in a world were you can do whatever you want to do?’”
Keys, who is a Grammy Award winner, an active philanthropist and co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive — a non-profit organization that provides medicine to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa — encouraged women to rethink the voting process as a positive experience that brings enlightenment and social power.
“It’s wonderful for women like us to have a forum, a place where we can get together and we can talk about what’s happening and what’s going on in our world — because we have an opportunity to change things,” Keys said. “It is absolutely the case that we have to be involved. We must. There is no choice, because if we don’t utilize our voice, nothing will happen.”
Other special guests included Desiree Peterkin-Bell, the Obama campaign’s Pennsylvania Senior Advisor for communications, Councilman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Tina “DJ Diamond Kuts” Dunham, Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder and music director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra and Charisse Lillie, vice president of community investment for the Comcast Corporation and president of the Comcast Foundation.
Aisha Winfield, founder of the Junior Music Executive, a non-profit organization created to expose students to careers in the music business, was also a special guest at the luncheon. She said she appreciated talking with the attendees.
“I told our table that we get a lot of negative images of young people in the city of Philadelphia,” Winfield said. “This is an extremely inspiring event for me to be able to talk to the young ladies about some of the things they’re interested in. It’s just reassuring that we do have young people who are willing to be in leadership positions for the country.”
For Ashley Ashby, this election will be her first time voting. She will attend Montgomery College to study nursing, but Ashby admitted that after talking with Jarrett, she is considering studying law.
“I feel excited,” Ashby said. “I feel included. I feel that my vote will count and he will win.”
Brittany Love, a Philadelphia resident and student at the University of South Carolina, came to the luncheon to understand the president’s campaign, and network with the other attendees.
“I want to know what he’s doing, and how I can possibility make a change to this election,” Love said. “I want what’s best for us. We all come from families that aren’t as fortunate as they could be, so it’s kind of hard for us to pay for our education. But, I could see determination within [the women]. Each of them have a glow that’s like, ‘I’m not stopping and I’m going to get there no matter what.’ That’s what we all have in common.”