When he was seven years old, Jaeger Held ’23 visited Washington, D.C., for the first time. It was the winter of 2008-09, shortly after Barack Obama was elected president. The air was crisp, and all around him, the excitement was palpable.
Seven years later, there was a shift in Washington. He remembers watching with unease as the 2016 election and the Trump administration unfolded. From then on, he felt an urgency to act and to be an active participant in the change he wished to see.
During his high school days, Held attended American Legion Montana Boys State, which teaches youth the fundamentals of government, and served as a legislative aide and page for the Montana House of Representatives during the 2017 and 2019 legislative sessions. Most recently, in June, he contacted the chair of the Montana Democratic Party and attended the state convention, which was conducted virtually via Zoom due to COVID-19.
“The primary focus of the state convention was drafting the state party platform and electing delegates to attend the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC),” said Held, a history major, and civil war era studies and public history double minor.
“As one of the few attendees from southeastern Montana, I ran for a position and was elected as the youngest delegate from Montana (aged 19) to the 2020 Democratic National Convention.”
Delegates were divided proportionally in Montana, according to the results of the state primary election for candidates who received at least 15 percent of the vote. Therefore, Montana awarded 18 pledged delegates to Joe Biden and one pledged delegate to Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Held was one of the state’s 18 delegates for Biden.
Much like the state convention, delegate meetings and the DNC took place virtually. While delegate voting typically happens during the national convention, due to its virtual format this year, they cast their ballots prior. Held later attended the DNC in mid-August—during the first week of on-campus classes in the fall—from his Gettysburg College dorm room.
The experience of being a delegate has not only propelled the mission of Held’s younger self, but it also taught him about what goes on behind the scenes in a national election campaign, and reiterated the power that exists when you are informed and involved in the political process.
“I believe that voting is the singular most important action that all citizens can take in shaping our democracy. It is very important, particularly for young people, to be engaged in this vital civic duty,” Held said. “Regardless of your political affiliation, your voice deserves to be heard.”
By Molly Foster
Photos courtesy of Jaeger Held ’23