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  • María Teresa Kumar: Much has been made of the 2020 US election.

  • Right now, just over a week later,

  • pollsters are issuing mea culpas,

  • Democrats are tentatively celebrating,

  • Republicans are blowing their collective tops,

  • lawyers are busier than ever,

  • ballot-counters are still hard at it,

  • and demographers are desperately trying to understand

  • who voted, for whom, where and why.

  • Much has been said of the Latino vote in this election,

  • which is something I know a little bit about,

  • having been working obsessively over it for the last 16 years.

  • Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic,

  • with the largest voter registration cap in America.

  • A Latino youth turns 18 every 30 seconds.

  • While the mode for whites in America is 58,

  • the mode for Latinx is 11 years old.

  • You heard that right.

  • And it's these new voters

  • and the youth who are translating America for their immigrant families

  • who are leading the charge for audacious change.

  • An estimated 73 percent of Latinx youth voted for Biden.

  • As members of the largest generation globally,

  • these Latino youth mirror their peers,

  • seeking intervention for climate equity,

  • racial justice

  • and gender parity.

  • What we're hearing right now in America and around the globe

  • is a demand for a massive reset on how we will govern in the 21st century

  • for a world that is livable,

  • equitable and just.

  • Too many young people are drowning in student debt

  • here in America,

  • their families have been ravaged by the pandemic,

  • who have lost jobs, lives and housing,

  • and still, in 2020, they showed up for an America to believe in.

  • Many say that 1914, the eve of World War I,

  • defined the 20th century in America.

  • That meant FDR's New Deal that doubled down on its citizens

  • by nation-building,

  • offering pathways to the middle class

  • through public works, education and sponsoring artists and musicians,

  • building roads to provide jobs and sponsoring science-driven blueprints

  • that allowed a man almost 40 years later

  • to look up at the Moon and say that he wanted to go there.

  • And we did that with less technology than the smartphone feeding this talk.

  • So my hope is that the 21st century

  • will be remembered as starting February 2020,

  • not because that was when COVID ravaged us

  • and in doing so, exposed the real, deep socioeconomic and racial disparities

  • that ail us,

  • but because that was when Americans cast a ballot for the future

  • that believes in addressing the climate crisis,

  • that health care is a right,

  • that racial inequities hinder us all.

  • We have a window to meet the precedent set by the Greatest Generation

  • and define our century

  • as one that is equitable and sustained.

  • I, for one, am excited to get to work.

  • I hope you'll join me to usher in this audacious change together.

  • Bianca DeJesus: María Teresa, thank you so much for that.

  • MTK: Thank you, Bianca. Thank you for this conversation.

  • BD: It is an honor.

  • So, some commentators seem to be confounded

  • that in certain places,

  • Republicans received meaningful numbers of Latinx votes.

  • Of course, it's kind of silly to imagine that any demographic is a monolith,

  • and within our community, there are so many differences.

  • So what is the most productive way to think about heterogeneity

  • within the Latinx, and really, within any community?

  • MTK: If we don't have public elected officials

  • talking to our community, especially a new community,

  • that is coming of age,

  • that is relatively new to the democratic process,

  • someone else will fill that vacuum.

  • But I can share with you

  • one of the things that we knew at Voto Latino

  • was that young Latinos are navigating America for their families.

  • Those youth turned up to protect their families,

  • and it was not just in Arizona,

  • but we also saw it Nevada, we also saw it in Pennsylvania,

  • we saw it in Georgia and in North Carolina.

  • And if you want to have an inclusive America,

  • you have to fight for the vote,

  • and that is basically what we need to see right now.

  • But when we talk to young people,

  • they voted disproportionately because they wanted climate change,

  • they wanted access to health care,

  • and they wanted to talk about the real racial inequities.

  • When George Floyd sadly was murdered tragically,

  • Latinos were side by side with the African American community

  • because we recognize that that is something

  • that truly plagues our American existence

  • and that we have to address it if we want to move forward.

  • BD: Absolutely.

  • So do you see evidence that patterns change

  • regarding first- and second- generation Latinx voters,

  • and how does assimilation play out

  • in terms of long-term voting trends?

  • MTK: That's interesting.

  • So at Voto Latino,

  • we don't believe that there's an assimilation. Right?

  • What we want is an enhancement of American culture.

  • Just like we celebrate St. Patrick's Day,

  • we want to be able to celebrate our roots

  • and recognize the importance of that richness.

  • We are in a very unique moment in America,

  • where we have the most diverse population in the world,

  • and one can argue that that is why some people don't want us to succeed,

  • because it's our human capital,

  • our vision,

  • our ability to move forward

  • and our diversity

  • that prepares us for this century.

  • And so when we talk about the differences in the Latino community,

  • it's also the differences in America

  • that makes us so much richer

  • with our imagination,

  • with our ability to have entrepreneurship,

  • and we have to use that and harness it for good.

  • Some people will say race is what is our Achilles' heel.

  • I actually believe that it's the diversity of our races and our cultures

  • that actually prepares us to battle the 21st century

  • that it's already interglobal.

  • And the more that we harness that beauty of that diversity,

  • that is what prepares us to compete and define the 21st century.

  • BD: Wow. Yeah. I think that's beautiful and totally agree.

  • So how can we make first-time voters repeat voters

  • who are engaged in future elections

  • and not just for presidential elections

  • but for local government as well?

  • MTK: One of the things that we are seeing

  • is that we're seeing more young people run for office,

  • and the more people start running for office,

  • they realize that local government is what makes the most impact,

  • at least here in America.

  • So if you want, for example, some racial reform

  • in your judicial system,

  • vote for your district attorney,

  • vote for your city councilman.

  • If you think that there's disparities in our education system,

  • run for your school board.

  • So that's one.

  • But the other thing to send very clearly to politicians

  • is that when young --

  • Americans voted their heart out.

  • Young Latinos, youth in general,

  • outvoted the people before them,

  • but they're voting on making a bet that their life will change,

  • because the last four years could not have been rockier.

  • And if the folks that are elected

  • don't meet the challenges of addressing climate change,

  • addressing racial equity and gender parity

  • and health care for all,

  • they run the risk of not having those people vote again in 2024,

  • and we need everybody on deck.

  • And so our job as citizens

  • is to ensure that we give the people that we just voted into office

  • the courage to do the right thing,

  • and that means to continue the rallies,

  • continue calling our members of Congress, writing those letters

  • and running for office ourselves.

  • BD: So one question that speaks to the theme of this year's TED Women,

  • "Fearless,"

  • I think it's accurate to say

  • that there's been a lot of fear within the Latinx community

  • over the last few years.

  • How does that begin to change now?

  • MTK: I will share with you,

  • the day after Donald Trump was elected,

  • all of our worst nightmares came to fruition.

  • We saw family separation,

  • one of the cruelest forms of our nation's history

  • came back to haunt