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College Democrats of America: Our Story

The Democratic Party has a history in the United States not only of enacting social change, but also of empowering young people and students, and making our country a place we can be proud to pass on to future generations. The College Democrats of America works with the Democratic National Committee as its official student branch to make sure that young people on campuses throughout the nation have a place to come together, organize, and advocate on behalf of Democratic candidates and issues.

CDA was founded in 1932 during the presidential campaign of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, because Democratic leaders recognized that the young people in our nation could be a driving force in influencing the political process. During the late 1980s, there was a movement for the College Democrats of America to become the official student branch of the Democratic National Committee, so that young leaders could work even more closely with national Party leadership. With the help of then-Senator Al Gore and his staff, this goal became a reality by 1990.

College Democrats are particularly proud of our work in recent years, helping lead the youth movement that propelled President Barack Obama into office in 2008. President Obama believed in and supported our nation’s youth in an unprecedented way, communicating directly to us his promises of change. Young people responded enthusiastically by registering their peers to vote on campuses nationwide, launching social media campaigns, hosting rallies, participating in daily phonebanks and canvasses, and driving voters to the polls.

CDA has always been committed to working with and supporting the diversity within College Democrats’ membership. We have developed caucuses to help these students find a voice in CDA and within our Party, and we have fought for issues of critical importance to all our members. Our advocacy has included supporting the DREAM Act; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Act, and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We were also proud to help lead the fight among young people for the Affordable Care Act, stressing the importance of the provision allowing students to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26.

We’re especially proud of the work that our own alumni have done to support the President’s agenda. Two notable College Democrats alumni who remain a critical part of CDA are DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), a former chapter leader and an advocate for students at the DNC and in Congress, and our own Honorary Chairwoman, Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY).

As President Obama said in 2008: “Yes we can!” College Democrats hold true to that idea, and we have already begun mobilizing for 2012 through phone banks, advocacy, and creative campus programming. The members of College Democrats are thrilled to join the entire Democratic family by saying loud and clear, “I’m IN!”