Symone Sanders was only 25 when she was hired as Bernie Sanders’ press secretary for the 2016 US election. The call came as a surprise: She got the position after 27 other unsuccessful job applications. During the campaign, she addressed and crafted narratives around racial issues and inequality. Now, she is a political commentator on CNN. Sanders praises political disruption: “If people had not been disruptive, we’d still be sitting at segregated lunch counters,” she says. Her advice to other young people includes policies she sets for herself: Know what you want, don’t ask for permission, bring yourself into the damn room and just do well at whatever it is that you want to do.
Why did you decide to go into politics?
I have always thought that politicians and judges belong to two of the most powerful professions in the world. Politicians enact a lot of the laws that affect all the different types of communities in America – and especially people who look like me. Judges hold people’s lives in their hands because they decide whether someone goes to jail, whether someone gets a diversion program, and so on. At one point, I really wanted to be a judge. But then I went into college and I was like: “No.”
I fell in love with politics. I have worked in politics since I was a freshman in college and I found that communications was my forte. Not only did I enjoy the ability to tell a story, I also found that oftentimes, the messages communicated in politics did not resonate with communities that looked like mine – with women, people of colour and, specifically, black people – so I knew that I wanted to be one of the people that put the messages together. I think that that is one of the most powerful positions. The politician is the figurehead, but it is the people behind them that help them craft their messages and help them to make a difference.