As University of Miami student body president from 2011 to 2012, I had the honor of working with then-President Donna Shalala.
And boy, was President Shalala one of the smartest people I had ever met.
Fast forward to 2018 and she is continuing her life of service by running for the Democratic nomination for the United States Congress, representing a district, a city and a community that has become part of my fabric and my home. Once again, she is one of the smartest and most experienced candidates out there. From health care to gun safety, from climate change to women’s rights, it’s hard for me to think of someone who has more experience with which to tackle these issues head on than Donna Shalala.
That’s exactly why I’m supporting Matt Haggman.
I don’t believe that it takes decades in the legislature to understand that Donald Trump’s immigration policies are doing more harm than good. It doesn’t take years as a federal judge to recognize that love is love regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation. It doesn’t take an expert in health care—not even a former Secretary of Health and Human Services—to understand that each of us should have access to quality and affordable health care regardless of our socioeconomic status. And it doesn’t take much of anything to see the 7,000 pairs of sneakers on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building on March 13, 2018, each representing the life of a child lost to gun violence since Sandy Hook, and realize that something needs to be done.
To solve these problems—to move forward—requires a sense of purpose, humility, and an innate curiosity to seek out new perspectives and opinions. It requires, not experience, but a commitment to forging a new vision with new approaches that can create positive change for future generations.
From his days with the Miami Herald, where he was routinely recognized as one of their most committed and groundbreaking reporters, to his leadership of the Knight Foundation, Matt Haggman has approached problems and challenges with that combination of curiosity and humility that generates all forward-thinking vision.
It was his humility that led him to seek solutions from the community on how to tackle climate change through the Singularity Global Impact Competition. It was his curiosity that led him to join South Florida entrepreneurs on trips to Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv to learn how they become meccas of innovation and job growth. He has carried this commitment to new approaches to every step of his career, and we’d be lucky as a district to have him carry that with him to Capitol Hill.
Writing this, I think about the students like David Hogg and Emma González going to school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are speaking out about the futures they want to have. I think about some of my closest friends who happen to be Dreamers, worried about what tomorrow will hold, but who still show up every day to work toward the American Dream. The rise of Donald Trump, the implementation of his disastrous and ineffective policies, and the sudden emergence of the hidden racists and bigots in our country should make us all think about paths forward and how to best travel them with fresh, new approaches and fresh, new leadership.
There are few folks in South Florida who have done more for the betterment of our community and our country than Donna Shalala—and everyone, Republican and Democrat, owes her a debt of gratitude. But it’s time for a new generation of ideas, a new generation of approaches and in South Florida, it’s time for new generation of leadership. It’s time for Matt Haggman.
Coral Gables Resident
Former Student Body President, University of Miami
Brandon Mitchell may be reached at email@example.com