Millennial activist

Booker T. grad goes to Washington, plans a future in public policy.



Recent Booker T. Washington graduate Nathan Levit, right, helps Booker T. teacher John Waldron pass out neighborhood materials in support of Waldron’s campaign for state Senate.

Evan Taylor

It doesn’t take long for Nathan Levit to impress. The recent Booker T. Washington High School graduate has a list of accomplishments long enough to make anyone question how they spent their formative years. 

Two years in Washington, D.C., as a baby left an impression at an early age. At the time, his father, Ken Levit — now the executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation — worked for then-U.S. Sen. David Boren

In his sophomore year in high school, Nathan Levit worked for his first political campaign when Suzanne Schreiber ran for the Tulsa school board in 2014. She won in a landslide. As campaign manager, Levit took charge of social media, engaging volunteers and helping create good strategies.

“That was the base point where it all jumped off,” he says.

Since then, Nathan has been involved in three more campaigns — Mark Barcus’ judicial campaign, Joe Dorman’s campaign for Oklahoma governor and now John Waldron’s campaign for state Senate representing District 39. 

Waldron is a teacher at Booker T., and Levit plays many roles in his  campaign. He is an advisor, provides perspective on the issues, assists with organizing the volunteer effort and helps design the campaign strategy.

“Nathan recites political facts the way some kids recite baseball statistics,” Waldron says. 

He chose the high school student, who he taught as a freshman in government class, for Levit’s experience running campaigns. Waldron says the teen was recommended by professionals.  

Still, the most impressive bullet point on Levit’s resumé is his experience as one of two Oklahomans to represent the state in the 54th annual U.S. Senate Youth Program in March. 

Since it began in 1962, the purpose of the exclusive program has been to inspire young Americans to be involved in public service by allowing them to interact with each of the three branches of government. 

Each school in Oklahoma can nominate one person for the program; those nominated must take a test. The top test takers are interviewed and write an essay before 104 high school juniors and seniors are chosen. 

On each day of the weeklong program, participants meet with luminaries from every point of the political spectrum. 

“One day I met the president and Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg … every day you met someone who could headline an event,” Levit says. 

His close access allowed for plenty of surprises, he says, including an honest exchange with President Barack Obama about closing out his final year in office.

“President Obama was much more candid with us than he is on TV … one thing he said to our group was that he wished mandatory voting was in the Constitution,” Levit recalls. “I don’t think that’s something he would have said to program participants in previous years.”

The Senate Youth Program opened up many doors for a post-collegiate career in D.C., but the young Tulsan doesn’t want to limit himself to just the political sphere. Levit, who will study public policy at Princeton University this fall, wants to work in public service. 

However, he says the program has given him more internship opportunities and connected him to many interesting people from different states.  

“I definitely say this program affirmed my commitment to service in some form,” he says.

The current election cycle has left a strong impression on Levit, especially when it comes to his fellow millennials. 

“I think we’re seeing the largest activist generation since the Vietnam War,” he says. “It seems like we like to voice our opinions, but not at the ballot box.” 

Still, that doesn’t stop him from influencing his peers and making his voice heard in local media.

“I’m part of a small group, Youth for Op-Ed, that is allowed to write op-eds for the Tulsa World,” Levit says. “We’ve had five published. One I wrote was imploring young people to come back to Tulsa. The other was advocating for a student member of the school board.” 

Even though his parents instilled a lot of his political views growing up, Levit has developed his own opinions in the past few years. And he hopes to encourage others to do the same. 

“The truth is that, in terms of youth, not many people vote, much less are involved,” he says. “I feel like it’s my duty to get more people involved.”

 

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July 2019

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