As Andaya Sugayan (‘17 Comm.) recalls it, her passion for women being involved in politics dates back to elementary school, when she learned women in America didn’t always have the right to vote.
“It just struck me as unjust,” she says.
By the time Sugayan got to high school, she was setting the highest sights. “I wanted to be president for a really long time,” she says, recognizing even then how difficult that could be. “On the one hand, women were starting from behind, but on the other hand, I knew as a woman I could do really anything that I wanted to.”
Sugayan (who still touts the fact that she played clarinet in the Cougar Marching Band) is a regional coordinator in the Philadelphia area at Inspire U.S., a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that helps high schools conduct student-led voter registration drives in 10 states. Her previous political positions include working as a digital director for the Washington State Democrats, as a field director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and as deputy campaign manager for Matthew Sutherland (’16 Poli. Sci.) who ran for the legislature in 2017.
Not surprisingly, Sugayan has strong feelings about 2020 being the centennial of the 19th constitutional amendment being made into law and giving women the right to vote.
“Women tend to work really behind the scenes in the political process,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot more women being able to be the face of the political process. But there are still hurdles to overcome.” For one thing, Sugayan wants to see attention focus more on women’s ideas and their actual contributions to the political process and not on the novelty of their candidacies.
A record number of women were elected to Congress in 2018 and, largely because of that, a record number of women are now serving in Congress. Moreover, after the 2018 elections, a record number of women are now serving in state legislatures across the country.
At the same time, it took nearly 100 years for a woman to be elected speaker of the House—Nancy Pelosi, in 2007—and, of course, the country has not elected a woman president.
Sugayan said she learned at Washington State “how every single person has their own role in the political process and how every single person’s strengths can benefit the political system. You don’t have to be a politician, you can be involved behind the scenes,” she says.
Not that that is what she sees for herself.
“I am really happy doing voter registration for the time being, but at one point in the future, I do plan to run for office,” Sugayan says. “My eventual goal is to be a (U.S.) senator because that’s pretty cool—1 in 100. And from there we’ll see, maybe I’ll want to be president after that.”