Juan Ayala, a gay Latino, was elected president of the Dallas County Young Democrats, one of the country’s largest Young Democrats groups, in February. Ayala received his bachelor’s in economics from Trinity University in San Antonio. In 2004 he began attending Young Democrats meetings, and by 2007 he was co-chair of the national convention of the Young Democrats of America.
1 What is the significance of having someone in your position that is both Latino and gay?
I think it speaks volumes about the inclusiveness of the Democratic Party and the progressiveness of young people. Contrast that with the Republican Party, which continues to use both communities as scapegoats to divide the American people and distract them from their failed policies and lackluster leadership.
2What are your thoughts on the race between Clinton and Obama?
I was privileged to attend the debate between Sens. Clinton and Obama at the Kodak Theater in L.A. a few months back, and I was very impressed by both candidates. I think either would make a great president, and while I supported Sen. Clinton last year, I have been won over by the outstanding campaign run by Sen. Obama, and I voted for him in March.
3What first prompted you to get involved?
I know that the freedoms I enjoy as a gay man and the opportunities I have as a Latino are because others fought to make Dallas a better place to live. Because Dallas has been home to my family for generations, I feel I can do no less. That is why in addition to my work with Dallas County Young Democrats, I am a mentor in the Dallas Independent School District and on the board of the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
4As a leader, do you feel it is more important for an organization to groom new leaders or to reach out to the public?
Both are crucial to the long-term success of an organization, but I think grooming new leaders is slightly more important. A strong organization can survive with or without public excitement or attention. But without strong leadership even large and successful organizations can experience big declines.
5What do you feel is the biggest obstacle in getting people politically involved?
I think people are deeply cynical about politics. This is a result of elected officials who have abused the public trust and a complex system that makes progress slow and discourages participation. But those who have changed our country for the better did not do so because it was easy; they did it because it was right.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 4, 2008.