Interview with Aidan Kohn Murphy
Thanks to social media, teenagers have been given an incredibly powerful tool in politics – a voice. As the changing of the political guard in the US continues, teenagers have come to the forefront as activists and influencers in government. One of these teenage-run organizations, Gen-Z for Change, partnered with Joe Biden during his presidential campaign to promote him and his viewpoints on social media platforms. Here at The Last Word, we have been fortunate enough to interview this organization’s founder, Aidan Kohn-Murphy. Read on to see some of what Aidan had to say about Gen-Z for Change, US Politics currently, and some other, more light-hearted matters…
“Gen-Z for Change is a group of over 500 social media creators with a combined following of over 450 million on TikTok alone. It is about young people who influence social media apps using their platforms and influence for something good.”
When asked to explain his organization, Aidan went straight for the big statistics. To call an organization like this influential is a wild understatement, I’d call this sort of an organization revolutionary.
“There is so much power in reaching young people, especially on Tik Tok… anyone can get their thoughts out there”
After a half-an-hour zoom call, Aidan made clear what Gen-Z for Change believes in: the good of humanity, a democratic society, and a society in which everyone, even the youth, has the chance to express their feelings. But opening an organization like this is no easy feat. Aidan was therefore given a one-month course leave to focus on Gen-Z for Change (then known as Tik Tok for Biden). Having gone from just wanting to host a text bank to running a huge organization, it was this leave from school that made him realize how big his organization was. Aidan, with his new influence, vowed to support those who need help in voting, as well as helping those who can’t yet vote to contribute to the election effort.
“We decided to change to Gen-Z for Change because electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was never our end goal”
Aidan, like so many other social media influencers, sees potential in the progressive movement and believes electing Biden was just the beginning. With a look on the future, Aidan led Gen-Z for Change swiftly onto the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff, before working on some non-electoral work: reducing the stigma around mental health, promoting the Covid-19 vaccines, supporting voting rights, combatting Climate Change, and more. In these efforts, Aidan has also worked with a wide variety of major organizations and people: Harvard University, MTV, Dr. Fauci, and the MLK foundation – to name a few. And, as another key point of progressive action, Aidan has made his organization a place that is inclusive for all:
“Ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds, different sexualities, different classes, different socioeconomic statuses – every type of person in America, basically”
This diverse group of people has also gotten the opportunity to get a greater inside look at the world of politics thanks to Aidan’s work with many different important figures – people he referred to as important to electing Democratic politicians all played a part in this effort.
“We had the Former Chair of the Democratic Caucus, the Biden Grandchildren, Hank Green, and even the cast of Glee”
By Election Day, the hashtag #TikTokforBiden had exceeded 250 million posts, which sprung Aidan into a whole new ballgame. Six months later – with much activism done in the interim – Aidan was invited to be on Nightline (a nationally televised TV program) regarding his work supporting the vaccination movement. But his ground-breaking interview wouldn’t come without a few hurdles – even in the preceding hours.
“It was a very, very strange experience. They were originally going to send a camera crew, but then I got Covid. So, I found myself sitting cross-legged on the corner of my bed, with symptomatic covid, trying to remember a million different things. It was a great experience but definitely felt like a fever dream.”
Now, as Aidan leads his organization into the future, he remains determined to keep two key things the same:
“I would like Gen-Z for Change to be what it’s been so far – a platform to spread awareness for social justice. I want to keep giving young people a chance to get involved. I also want us to continue to focus on electoral work, looking at the 2022 Midterms and upcoming Primary elections. I also want to start building out as we become more financially stable to serve as a general vessel to support young people in elections across the board.”
Aidan put a special emphasis on Primary elections as he hasn’t felt completely satisfied with the performance of President Biden. He wasn’t initially a big supporter of Biden – saying, in the early stages of the primary, he wanted to get behind then-Mayor Buttigieg. As the primary went on, Aidan did shift towards supporting more left-wing candidates, such as Senators Warren or Sanders.
“I’m not Biden’s biggest fan, but I would much, much, much rather have him as President than Trump.”
But that’s enough about politics – let’s talk about penguins.
“So, I was filming an ad for Converse, where the joke was that I was wearing Converse and a Penguin Costume in a local mall and filming people’s reactions. The security guard then walked up to me and said that I couldn’t wear my penguin costume, by mall policy. It was the strangest incident, so I decided to – I’m not sure why – take action by commenting ‘free the penguin’ on their Instagram posts, and even go to the mall in penguin costumes in protest. And it worked! They adopted a penguin in my name!”
Talk about using your influence for good, huh! Thank you, Aidan, for taking the time to speak with us and providing so much great insight into your work and political issues today.