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 Sam Park, Georgia State Representative for the 101st District, which includes the city of Lawrenceville and Suwanee. In November of 2016, unseated a three-term incumbent, winning 51 percent of the vote with a campaign based on healthcare, equality, and economic policy. Park sits on the Small Business Development, Intragovernmental Coordination, and Industry/Labor Committees. Sam earned his Bachelors in Political Science and Bachelors in Economics from Georgia State University and Juris Doctor from Georgia State University College of Law in 2013. Sam also served in the Georgia State Legislature as a legislative intern from 2012-2013. After graduating law school in 2013, he received a Fellowship in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law to obtain a Masters in Law with a specialization in Law, Politics, and Legislation at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C.
Sam is an inspiration to the youth in Georgia that want to get involved in government and public service.
We caught up with Sam 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?
In 2016, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Without chemotherapy, she was given 2 to 4 months to live. With chemotherapy, she was given 2 years It was only through Medicaid and Medicare that my mother was able to afford chemotherapy and live the final three years of her life in peace. My representative voted no to expand Medicaid in our state, which prevented 500,000 Georgians from having access to affordable care. I ran to hold my elected official accountable, and fight so all Georgians have access to healthcare.
Who inspired you to get involved?
Proverbs 31:8-9 says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” My responsibility is to represent the needs of Georgians. From conversations I have at the doors to working under the Golden Dome, my faith plays an important role in how I act and legislate; to treat others as I want to be treated, and work to ensure the laws of our state reflect the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself.
My mother has also been an inspiration to me. As a single mother, she worked very hard to raise my two sisters and I. She played the organ in church and taught piano to students in our home. She taught me the importance of faith, family, and service. With the values she instilled in me, I hope to honor her and my country by leading through service.
How do you define a leader?
A leader is defined by their character. To me, a good leader is one who is kind in heart, wise of mind, and strong of body. Someone who is full of love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?
When I began my reelection campaign this year, I wanted to create a seat at the table for young people to get involved in our democratic process. I brought onto my team a diverse, young group of people from various backgrounds, viewpoints, and life experiences. I am currently the oldest member of our campaign at 33 years old. Most of our 20-member team are college students in their early 20’s. Each of them are young leaders in their own right with a passion to make their communities better. Together, we reached out to thousands of our friends and neighbors, organized our community, and built a diverse coalition to move Georgia forward.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?
Do not be afraid to stand for what is right, but have the capacity to listen to those who may disagree with you. There is always an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t wait your turn, step up and lead. If you see a problem, and nothing is being done about it, lead the way. For those who want to run for office, reach out to your elected officials at the local, state and federal level. Join a campaign, and see what it takes. Attend hearings and meetings to understand the lawmaking process and the impact of public policy on the communities you care about. Keep fighting to do good, and never give up.