We’ve been programmed to believe that if someone is older they automatically know more than someone younger, but youth doesn’t always mean ignorance. Hannah Zimmerman’s years of work is often discounted by adults because she is only a mere eighteen years old. This Stanford freshman has worked hard: contributing toward activism, campaigning and people-organizing during the 2016 primaries. She’s established enough credibility to say that “age does not correlate with experience.”
Like the millions of young people, Hannah fell head over heels for the Bernie Sanders movement. Sanders was not only a presidential candidate, but he sparked youngsters to be a part of something much larger than themselves. Hannah was inspired by his message and soon became involved by making phone calls and passing out flyers to gain votes for Bernie. For Hannah it wasn’t enough, she was addicted to the movement, as she describes, “It was like crack, I was hooked.”
Being an activist-addict she craved something stronger and decided to start an organization made up of high school students to take steps toward helping Bernie get elected. At age sixteen, before she could even vote, Hannah founded High Schoolers for Bernie. The organization took empowering steps for young people such as registering thousands of students to vote across the nation and hosting a performance with only high school students to support Bernie. Overall, High Schoolers for Bernie brought a forgotten demographic to politics and made high schoolers an integral part of Bernie’s campaign.
While helping with the Bernie campaign she says, “I went hard, like every day I was doing something.” Her involvement and networking allowed her to become acquainted with a Lawyer from the New York State Campaign who asked sixteen-year-old Hannah if she was interested in running for delegate. Unsurprisingly, the Democratic National Convention protested her being allowed to be on the Democratic National Convention due to her age, but the by-laws didn’t say anything about a committee member having to be old enough to vote by election.
Through this loophole, a junior in high school sat on the credentials committee for the Democratic National Convention. She describes being on the floor of the DNC as “traumatic…. insane” because of the rowdy delegates fighting and yelling at one another. Despite the chaos, she claims that “overall it was such a monumental experience…one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I met my best friends there.” After she turned seventeen, age still seemed like only a speed bump for this activist.
Last summer, Hannah ran for local office in New York on a county committee, the lowest form of elected government, after she discovered no one held the position. After petitioning, gathering signatures and testifying before the board of elections, she became New York City’s youngest elected official at age seventeen. As a member of the county committee, she helped choose candidates who left before the end of their term. If a candidate retires before the need of their term, her job is to decide, as a group, who should replace them. In addition, they meet twice a year to discuss business matters and induct new members. In other words, pretty chill, but still incredibly important.
She found it important to take on this small, but impactful role at such a young age because there aren’t enough young voices represented. “We need young people in government and in office. The average age of leadership in Congress is 78 years old; that’s unacceptable.” Furthermore, by holding a position on the county committee she embodied her belief that young people offer something old white men will never understand. “The thing about young people is they have passion and dedication and to have that in our offices would be incredible because when young people want something done they have all this energy and naivety that they can bring to the table that will be able to get things done.” Clearly, this idea is proven not only by Hannah, but teenyboppers across the country have made great activist strides.
Before she was a radical, she was a music major at a performing arts high school in New York. To combine her passions for the arts and socialist ideals, she and other socialist artists gathered to form the Socialist Artists Alliance. The goal was to connect revolutionary artists together, “advancing the cause for artist workers, promoting socialist art and the long-term goal would be to produce our own art because the coalition who founded it were all artists.” The project has the purest intentions of simply connecting and helping artists towards the movement. Currently, the group is setting up meetings across the country and working hard to begin connecting artists.
Being a full-time student, County Committee member and a freshman in college, Hannah works alongside graduate students by focusing on college students to vote in the 2018 elections. After all her tireless work and networking she finally had her “oh shit” moment during her first semester of college at Stanford University. She realized that there are so many people who are ready and willing to support the movement but don’t know what to do. Her passion is to help people and help make change.
“Our cause is urgent, I mean look at climate change. The work that we do needs to get done fast and that is where my passion stems from. Every day that we don’t do something, something like the vote on net neutrality happens. We need to get people engaged so things like that don’t happen.” Urgency is the root of her passion and impatience is her specialty. Despite all that she has achieved, just like other eighteen-year-olds, she has no idea what the hell to expect from life, but she knows that this passion in her going to stay hot.