Ben Spielberg ’06 – Campaigning for Social Justice

MFS Mock Primary Election Through the Years

Many MFS alumni have entered or aspire to careers in politics, public service, journalism, media, and more. A large number credit their experiences at MFS, and in some cases, refer directly to the MPE/MPC as a catalyst for their career path. In the following feature, several alumni describe their careers and how their MFS experiences shaped their path.

 

Ben Spielberg ’06ben-web

  • B.S. Stanford University
  • Research Associate and Project Manager at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Founder of the 34justice blog

Campaigning for Social Justice

Today, Ben Spielberg advocates for his political beliefs on his blog, 34justice, but, twelve years ago, he was standing on a stage in the Field House Gym championing the beliefs of Dennis Kucinich, the candidate who ultimately won the Mock Primary Election 2004.

As a sophomore, Ben was one of the youngest students participating in MPE that year, but he was eager to be involved and volunteered to represent Dennis Kucinich.

“I was super excited to run as Kucinich as he was one of the first politicians I really admired in Congress,” said Ben. “At the time, he was one of the few people in the House that was opposed to the Iraq war, in support of gay marriage, and his stances on the issues were much more aligned with mine and not completely mainstream within the Democratic party. Few people in Congress had a consistent record advocating for disadvantaged populations and standing up for the public good. His experience as Mayor of Cleveland was especially exciting to me, when he refused to sell a publicly owned utilities company. He did what was right and was willing to take a stand as a politician for something that was unpopular at the time.”

In terms of campaigning on behalf of Kucinich, Ben thought that Kucinich’s values and his record were already appealing selling points for the MFS community, so he and his campaign team focused on heightening candidate exposure. The strategy of Ben’s campaign team, including Ben Jones ’06 and Mike Borden ’04, was to emphasize the consistency of Kucinich’s record and assert to voters that, although they may not have heard of him, Kucinich was the ideal candidate whom more politicians should emulate. Ben and his campaign staff were quite successful in gaining traction for a fringe candidate, as Kucinich eventually won in a huge landslide at MFS. 

“MPE is something I still tell people about to this day when people ask me about my political views or how I see things,” said Ben. “It convinced me that if you have a candidate with a compelling record who is advocating for disadvantaged groups of people, that candidate can become viable and widely popular. MPE reinforced a belief that the issues I care about and think are really important to people are winning issues. They speak to people’s values and are not as radical as they can be portrayed to be.”

After the election day, the wave of energy surrounding Kucinich carried on as the actual Dennis Kucinich visited MFS in the spring of 2004. After his MPE victory, Ben’s father suggested that he write to Kucinich’s campaign to inform them of the Mock Primary tradition at MFS and Kucinich’s victory. Kucinich agreed to give a speech at the school, and Ben, named a HIgh School Coordinator for the Kucinich campaign, provided an introduction.

kucinich-web

After MFS, Ben graduated with a degree in mathematical and computational science from Stanford University. For the next few years, he worked in California public schools as a Teach for America corps member, a member of the Executive Board of the San Jose Teachers Association, and as a math instructional coach. He now resides in Washington, DC and is a Research Associate and Project Manager at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute that pursues federal and state policies designed to reduce poverty and inequality.

Ben also started a political blog called 34justice after the 2008 presidential election with Jon Zaid ’05, an MFS baseball teammate, and another friend from Stanford.     

“I originally started a political email list where I would email my thoughts about the election and issues related to the health care debate to families and friends,” said Ben. “Some people would email me back and engage with me on issues, so I thought a better outlet would be a blog to have more of a voice in national debates. It is a personal blog so it’s great to be able to discuss the topics I care about.”

The blog has become especially well-known for its coverage on education, and his articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, EdWeek, and other media outlets.  

Between the blog and his full-time position, Ben is enjoying advocating for the causes he finds important and engaging in earnest political discussion. For the foreseeable future, he believes his passion for politics will remain ignited, and he will continue to be an active proponent for social justice.

 

Next: Emily Jones ’08 – Clear and Concise for Her Radio Audience