We may not see John Carry Easterling, III's name on a ballot yet, but at some point in the next ten years we are certain to see this young man serving us in elected office. He is smart, energetic, and committed to making life better for others.
Why ten years? Easterling has just graduated high school and plans to double major in political science and history at UNCG. He also plans to graduate before venturing into public service. He isn't waiting until after college to get involved, though. Easterling has just been appointed the chair of the Rural Caucus for North Carolina College Democrats and is serving as the chair of the High School Caucus for Young Democrats of America. He recently completed his tenure as the President of North Carolina Teen Democrats.
When asked about his accomplishments in these groups, John quickly gives credit to those who served or are serving with him. He said that among his favorite accomplishments was that his administration increased participation in Teen Dems in North Carolina by adding 20 county chapters and more than 300 members in a six-month time span.
On a national level, he and his administration grew the High School Caucus of YDA from zero chartered state units to 10 chartered state units with more than 2000 teen members. In recognition of his leadership, the Black Caucus of Young Democrats of America created a new award and named it after Easterling. John was the first recipient of the John Easterling Outstanding High School Democrat Award.
As young as he is, Easterling's introduction to politics and public service predates his high school years. In 2009, he served as President of the Scotland County NAACP Youth Council and in 2011 he served on Congressman Larry Kissell's Youth Leadership Council. However, it is an even earlier memory that spurred his decision to spend his life in public service.
In 2008 I watched the whole Ted Kennedy Speech at the 1980 DNC in New York and it was at that pivotal moment I decided to pursue a lifelong career in public service. His final words inspired me the most “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” Even though he lost the nomination, he reassured everyone that he was returning back to the US Senate and continue the fight for all those whose cares had been his concern during the campaign. That zealous and enthusiastic spirit to continue to work for the good of the less fortunate is what really inspired me.
It is no surprise that Easterling considers Ted Kennedy his most admired political leader, but he turns to his hometown when asked about the North Carolina political leader that he most admires.
Terry Sanford, because he’s from my hometown, helped found the NC Association of Teen Dems in 1963, and when asked “why does he continue his work in public service”, he said “to keep the SOB’s out” and that is a true public servant that all North Carolinians should remember.
Easterling thinks we could improve public education in North Carolina by increasing teacher pay, removing common core, and maintaining per-pupil spending. While education is important he feels the most important issue facing North Carolina is voter suppression and extreme gerrymandering intended to favor one political party over another.
He didn't pull any punches when it comes to what it will take to get young voters to the polls. Easterling said we need to, "be blunt with young voters and make them aware of the constant gridlock put in their way by Republicans to suppress their vote, making it harder for them to pay for college, and get a fair shot at success." He also said we need to do a better job of turning out the African-American vote.
African Americans are the most loyal base of the Democratic Party and support Democrats 90% of the time, but because of the lack of GOTV efforts in African American communities we are lowering the turnout. For example if the majority of the heavily African American populated precincts along the I-85 corridor would have been heavily targeted like in previous cycles, we could’ve ensured victory for some more democratic candidates in 2014.
When asked what advice he would give to teens just getting started with political involvement he said,
If you stay true to your cause and concern, then you will never fail. Don’t try to be a politician, but a true Public Servant who cares for all. Remember that friends come and go, the political tides blow left and right, but real leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.
He ended our Q&A with a quote from Rosalynn Carter, "A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be."