A.B. Political Science | 2013
An aspiring politician in the early days of his campaign.
“Abdul Dosunmu, possibly the most politically educated high schooler who has ever lived, is running for president in 2032 and needs your support” is the description of a 2009 Facebook group dedicated to the election of Dosunmu, now a third-year political science major. Though Dosunmu’s 2032 campaign is on hiatus, he remains active and enthusiastic, pegged to be a future politician.
“I’ve always been captivated by the political enterprise of bringing the reality of America into alignment with America’s ideals,” he said, “It’s also important to me because the country we will inherit is being shaped right now. We, I think, as young people do a disservice to ourselves if we don’t engage in the process right now.”
After his first year, right before the 2010 midterm congressional elections, Dosunmu worked at the Democratic National Committee with the political director of Organizing for America, which he describes as the “grassroots part of the White House.”
“Working there was amazing. I learned a lot about the sort of enterprise of running a national campaign.”
With that knowledge under his belt, Dosunmu spent last summer at the Obama for America 2012 campaign in Chicago, interning with the political shop, which manages campaign relations with local and state officials. Despite the typical intern duties of preparing materials and organizing conference calls, Dosunmu recounts his experience fondly, recalling a community of interns and volunteers that included several University of Chicago students and weekly brown bag lunches with campaign and white house senior staff.
“The one I remember most is David Axelrod, who’s also an alumnus, and he talked about why he’s involved and what was special about this campaign. A lot of the reasons he articulated I share for wanting to be engaged and involved. So it was nice meeting him and having my own ideals shared.”
The most enriching part of his internship, for Dosunmu, was seeing how a campaign empowers people at a local level to unite it to their immediate conditions and to affect change in their community.
“It really got me thinking about how to facilitate a revival of the democratic ethos in the modern era, and that underlies the work I do on campus.”
While not studying, Dosunmu researches on political mobilization of youth through new media with Professor Cathy Cohen and is the president of the Organization of Black Students (OBS), where he has worked to promote community and civic engagement.
As a student representative on the committee of the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration, Dosunmu focused on tailoring the reception to be inclusive of the student body as well neighboring communities. As an admirer of keynote speaker Geoffrey Canada’s work with the Harlem Children’s Zone, Dosunmu felt himself to be a “direct descendant and beneficiary of Dr. King’s work.”
“As someone who wants to affect social change himself, Dr. King really provided the language that folks like me can speak to the country about its broader ideals and he really provided the model for social justice activism.”
Dosunmu’s community at home, an inner-city neighborhood in Dallas, gave him the impetus to venture into social activism.
“I saw that there were so many earnest people, honest people, decent people who weren’t looking for a hand out, but for the opportunity to live up to their full potential. In so many places, I saw unproductive, underfunded schools, economic underdevelopment, a number of issues that sets up a dynamic of lack. So one the things I learned to do was to be involved in the struggle, to extend equality of opportunity.”
Furthermore, Dosunmu describes his community as “incredibly political engaged.” In fact, his foray into civic participation was during the 2008 election, where he noticed his grandmother’s excitement and his small cousins’ Obama shirts. While canvasing his neighborhood, Dosunmu met an elderly African American woman, who lamented her possible inability to vote because she could no longer drive to the polls.
“I think that’s particularly important in an era of cynicism about politics and government: to be mindful of what is at the heart of our democratic process. Voting and being involved is about expressing our hopes and dreams for our country. Not voting is sort of rejection of the idea that America can be perfected. I resolved at that point to always be involved because I do believe that the moral universe is one of justice.”
By Linda Qiu, Class of 2014, New Media Editor
Photo credit Abdul Dosunmu, Class of 2013