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College Democrats

College Democrats of America
President Taylor Barnard (MA)
Vice President Natasha McKenzie (DC)
Director of Membership Danny Khalil (TX)
Director of Political Affairs Sarah Valentine (OH)
Director of Communications Matthew Metz (OH)
Director of Programs Andrea Nemecek (IA)
Director of Development John McDermott (NC)
National Council Chair Rachel McGovern (FL)
National Council Vice-Chair Brexton Isaacs (IL)
National Council Secretary Nicholas Kitchel (CA)
Honorary Chair Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Founded 1932
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Mother party Democratic Party

The College Democrats of America (CDA) is the official youth outreach arm of the Democratic Party. It consists of over 100,000 college and university students from across the United States. The organization has served as a way for college students to connect with the Democratic Party and Democratic campaigns and has produced many prominent liberal and progressive activists. The organizational structure of the College Democrats has changed significantly since its founding in 1932. Originally founded as a branch of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the group became independent following its split with Lyndon B. Johnson on the Vietnam War. The organization experienced a renaissance under the leadership of Al Gore and today is once more integrated with the DNC.


The College Democrats of America organization was founded in 1932 to further the election campaign of presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt. As the College Young Democrats of America, it was originally a small faction of the Young Democrats of America. It had a good deal of success during its first decades, and claims on its website to have been "the largest student organization in the nation" during the 1940s. However, in 1967, the CDA took up a position opposing the Vietnam War; this upset President Lyndon B. Johnson, who cut funding for CDA from the Democratic National Committee.

By 1987, members of the College Young Democrats of America planned to split from the Young Democrats of America due to the age and interest difference between college students and young professionals. With the support of then Senator Al Gore, they organized a 1988 convention in Nashville where a constitution for the new College Democrats of America was approved and David Hale was elected the first President of the College Democrats of America. With an aggressive campaign by its members and help from Gore’s chief-of-staff Peter Knight, the College Democrats of America gained acceptance by the DNC in 1990. By the time Gore became Bill Clinton's vice presidential nominee, there were more than 50,000 members.

Since 1992, CDA has actively promoted the Democratic legislative agenda and Democratic candidates for office. Thanks in part to the work of CDA activists, John Kerry won 54% of the youth vote in 2004.[1] CDA continues to have a large presence today, with college chapters across America. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC former CDA President Alejandra C. Salinas (2010-2012) delivered a speech in support of President Barack Obama.


The activities of CDA chapters vary from chapter to chapter. Typical activities include inviting guest speakers (often elected officials or party activists) to campus, organizing issue advocacy and lobbying efforts (like letter-writing campaigns or phone banks), and arranging service activities for members to attend. College Democrats chapters also often organize social events (like sporting competitions with College Republicans chapters) and other recruitment activities.

During the election season, campus chapters typically partake in campaign work. These efforts generally include voter registration drives and dorm storms to register youth voters that have just gained voter eligibility. They also include providing youth manpower to campaigns for canvassing and phone banks. During presidential years, chapters have organized proxy debates and run mock elections. On election day, chapters generally participate in get out the vote (GOTV) activities, both on-campus and in surrounding communities.

Every year, the national organization of the CDA holds a national convention. These conventions include meetings for CDA's standing committees (like the constitution committee) and CDA's national caucuses (like the women's caucus) as well as the elections for CDA's National Executive Board. The convention also offers workshops on how to be effective in government and campaigning, and prominent speakers from the national Democratic party (previous speakers have included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Nancy Pelosi, members of Congress, and Cabinet members). The CDA convention that occurs on presidential election years is typically held in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention.


Colleges across America organize Democratic chapters at the local level and are overseen by state federations (such as the College Democrats of California) for support and to unite college Democrats within each state. Each state federation then charters with College Democrats of America which is the national entity for overseeing political activities. CDA hosts a national convention every summer inviting college Democrats from every state to attend, unite, learn, and have a great time.

The national organization is overseen by the CDA Executive Board.[2] The function of the Executive Board is officially to "determine and implement the organization's goals"; its members are elected annually at the national convention. Pursuant to the CDA Constitution, each local chapter receives three (3) votes, each state federation receives two (2) votes and each member of the outgoing Executive Board receives one (1) vote. More than 600 members attended the 2008 convention.

CDA is also guided by a National Council, which consists of state officers from every state federation. The National Council is presided over by a Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary, also elected annually at the national convention. The National Council Chair serves as a voting member of the Executive Board. The day-to-day operations of CDA are handled by the Executive Director.

Notable College Democrats

See also


External links

  • College Democrats of America
  • College Democrats of America Alumni Association
  • College Democrats of America 2010 National Convention
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