Meet Victoria Kirby — one of the “30 under 30″ rising stars in Florida politics

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Victoria Kirby, 26, entered politics to do her part in keeping this nation ruled by an active citizenry, and sees grassroots organizing as a way to engage more Americans in the process.

Active within her own communities, including her alma mater at Howard University, Victoria looks for ways to collaborate with other young leaders wherever she goes.  She had been on the path to becomea university president when she was selected with five other fellows to have  a private lunch with President Obama. With his words in her head the following days, she left school and moved back to Florida to take on her first purely political job.  She served as the West Central Florida Regional Field Director for Organizing for America and did her part to keep Pinellas in Obama’s column.  Victoria has been featured on CNN, the Today Show, and DC area stations; and was recognized as one of the top four LGBT young leaders in DC for her work at the Human Rights Campaign, the Center for Black Equity, and the National Black Justice Coalition.

“One lesson I’ve already learned is ‘you can win the impossible only if you never stop believing that it is indeed possible to win'”, Victoria writes. “We have to rethink and re-imagine the maps over and over again to see the potential hiding in each precinct, delegate, or state.”

Latest tweet from @VictoriaDKirby: “Driving to Lakeland to meet with @OFA_FL volunteers. I love driving through the rural and small towns in between. Our state is so beautiful.”

Here is Victoria in her own words:

I am 26 years-young.

I grew up and currently live in Brandon, FL …. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Communication & Culture and my Master’s in Public Administration from Howard University. I hope to visit Egypt soon enough to learn more about one of the greatest of our earliest civilizations.

I entered politics because I wanted to make sure that our country continued to be a nation ruled by an active citizenry. I saw grassroots organizing as a way to engage more Americans in the governing of our nation, not just on Election Day but afterward as well. I served on the Board of Trustees and as Chair of the student legislature at my Alma Mater and saw on a small scale how representative government could impact a constituency and wanted to make sure that Young Americans were included in the conversation regarding important national legislation of the day. I worked collaboratively with other young leaders in the Washington, DC area while in graduate school to make sure that our voices were heard during discussions of the Affordable Care Act. I witnessed the bill’s passage through both chambers of Congress through the viewpoint of a grassroots organizer and watched the President sign the bill into law in person.

One principle I always put above politics is my integrity. When it is all said and done we will all have to answer to God and I want to make sure that I can go to Him with a pure heart knowing that I never put what was the “political thing to do” above what is right for God’s people.

Person or people who gave me my first shot: I was on the path to become a university president when I started as a Summer Organizing fellow for President Barack Obama’s fledgling re-election campaign. Steve Walker, the Deputy National Political Director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), after hearing my pitch to motivate others to get involved with the campaign and learning of my background, pushed me to take the job as West Central Florida Regional Field Director for the campaign. I had just been selected as one of the top 6 fellows (out of 1500) to have a private lunch with President Barack Obama where he talked about his experience as a community organizer and how it prepared him to be President of our country. After hearing the President’s words in my head for two days, I decided to quit my job at a university and move back home to Florida to take my first purely political job and haven’t looked back since.

I started issue organizing when I was in middle school at Orange Grove School for the Arts in Tampa, FL. I was a member of Students Working Against Tobacco where we organized to pass the smoking ban in Hillsborough County. The lessons I learned there stayed with me through graduate school as I worked on issues such as protecting Brown v Board of Education at the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act, Student Loan Reform, and continues now as I work on issues such as Comprehensive Immigration Reform, universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable, and other issues as State Coordinator of Organizing for Action (a nonpartisan non-profit focused on passing President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda. Electorally, I served as the West Central Florida Regional Field Director and led the successful effort in keeping Pinellas County in the win column for President Obama and Democrats down the ticket by expanding the electorate, turning out 74% of the county’s registered voters, and winning the hearts and minds of registered Independents and moderate Republicans. I have been featured on CNN, the Today Show, and DC area local stations such as Fox 5. I have been published by a Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Journal, worked for corporate America, non-profits, as an aide to the President of Howard University, and received recognition as one of the top four LGBT young leaders in Washington, DC for my work at the Human Rights Campaign, the Center for Black Equity, and the National Black Justice Coalition.

When I begin a project or first work on a campaign, I look for a candidate or an issue that I can believe in. I am a person led by passion and will work 24/7 if I believe that the cause is worthwhile and will help make the world and our country a better place.

I’ve been blessed to have these people as my mentors: Governor Wilder, the first African American governor elected since reconstruction; Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta; Deputy SBA Administrator Marie Johns; former AOL/Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons; and the late Congressman Jack Kemp who I served on Howard University’s Board of Trustees with while I was in undergraduate school. Ashley M. Walker, Obama for America Florida State Director; John Gilbert, Organizing for America Florida Field Director; and Brynne Craig, Political Director for the Terry McAuliffe VA gubernatorial campaign and former DCCC National Field Director; have all left incredible imprints on my life. Their passion and intense work ethic have inspired me to be even better at my job.

The people I most admire in politics are: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (who invited me as a guest to her first State of the Union Address as First Lady) show tremendous grace and style as the public face for our country; Congresswoman Kathy Castor and her District Director Chloe Coney who I worked with briefly as Outreach Director in her office have been incredible role models  through their actions as visionary servant leaders; Secretary Hillary Clinton and Education Commissioner Betty Castor who have broken glass ceilings for women in this country and statewide, respectively; and last but not least Senator Arthenia Joyner (who has broken her own share of double glass ceilings) and Rep. Darryl Rousson who are two incredible African American leaders in our state who will be leading the Democratic Party to many victories next year.

One lesson I’ve already learned is: “you can win the impossible only if you never stop believing that it is indeed possible to win.” In politics people tend to keep things in the box of the past. You have to be willing; especially in competitive races that don’t favor you, to challenge the norms and see possibilities that others do not while acknowledging the past and the limitations it may create. It is in that lens that you can replicate long shot victories like the one President Obama won in beating out then Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primaries. We have to rethink and re-imagine the maps over and over again to see the potential hiding in each precinct, delegate, or state.

If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in higher education molding the minds of the future.

In ten years, you’ll read about me in either public service of some type in either the non-profit or public sector; as a lecturer speaking on building grassroots movements in communities across the country; or perhaps as a major national political player gearing up for the Presidential election of 2024. Who knows, what I do know is that wherever God takes me I will be happy, passionate about what I do, and hopefully my partner and I would have had our kids, a nice home in the beautiful Brandon area close to my family, and my beagle Kirby would have fathered some puppies.

You can connect with me via Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/victoriadianekirby; Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/VictoriaDKirby.

 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.