The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.
Today’s Q&A feature is Benjamin Durgan, Director of Government Affairs & Communications for the Economic Council of Palm Beach County.
A native of Palm Beach County, Benjamin Durgan was born in Boynton Beach, Florida and graduated from The North Broward Preparatory School in 2008. Ben received an Athletic Scholarship to play baseball at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey. He played two seasons as a pitcher and first baseman for the FDU Knights, earning All-NEC Honor Roll recognition his freshman year.
After two seasons with the Knights, Benjamin returned to Florida and enrolled at The Florida State University. Benjamin was the Vice-President of the Pre-Law Society, where he discovered his interests in law and politics and cultivated skills in writing and policy analysis. Benjamin also graduated from Florida State University with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and International Affairs and a minor in Business Entrepreneurship.
Benjamin began working as a Legislative Aide for Senator Joseph Abruzzo in the summer of 2014. Ben’s responsibilities include serving as lead constituent liaison and the head of budget policy. He went on to serve as the Chief of Staff for State Senator Bobby Powell Jr., and is studying to receive his Masters in Non-Profit Management from Florida Atlantic University. Benjamin is currently a board member of Place of Hope’s Leadership Advisory Council and The Susan G. Komen State-wide Legislative Advisory Council.
Benjamin is an inspiration to the youth that want to get involved in Community service and Government. We caught up with Ben to find out what leadership means to him and what advice he would give to the next generation of leaders.
Why did you choose this career path?
I made a decision when I graduated college to live a life of service, no matter what you were doing. My time in the Florida Senate helped me hone my strengths and learn how cooperation, understanding, and patience lead to positive solutions. After the Senate, I wanted to go into the private sector and serve our business leaders in Palm Beach County to help them grow their businesses and foster positive change in our communities.
Who inspired you to get involved?
As the son of a preacher, my mother has always taught me to put others before myself and live to serve and help others. I have many political, business, and life mentors but my former boss Senator Bobby Powell Jr. really drilled into me the importance of service and living a life of service. The saying he left me with is “ A life of service is, indeed, a life that counts!”
How do you define a leader?
A leader is somebody who can look fear in the face and take action for the betterment of his cohort. Leaders put their people before them, have strong “emotional intelligence”, are accountable to their people and to themselves, and act in the best interest of their people and the mission.
What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?
I am on the Susan G. Komen State-wide Legislative Advisory Board and we are working with our state legislators to educate them on issues related to breast cancer and advocating for strong public policy and appropriations to support Susan G. Komen’s team in their mission to end breast cancer. I am also on the Place of Hope Leadership Advisory Council and I have the opportunity to work with our foster care children to create safe environments for them to grow and help them prepare for the real world when they age out of the foster care system. Lastly, as a fellow of the Palm Beach chapter of New Leaders Council, we work to engage, educate, and lead the next generation of progressive, entrepreneurial, political, nonprofit, and private sector leaders.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?
We are swamped by a social media environment and a culture of ‘more’ to become wealthier, healthier, while pressing the material, consumer culture on our younger generations. I would say to them; instead of asking yourself “how can I make more money today? Or how can I get more of whatever I want today?, ask yourself “how can I serve today? When you ask yourself this question, the universe will open you up to opportunities to help people and organizations, and the money will follow! Be humble, compassionate, kind, and don’t be afraid to set your intention and goals to whatever you want!