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Rock the Vote

Can a Princeton-educated Rockefeller scion make politics interesting for kids who never went to college?

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Meet Justin Rockefeller, great-nephew of Nelson and son of the West Virginia senator John D. IV. At 26, he’s following the family’s well-worn path into politics, co-founding an impressively pedigreed nonprofit, GenerationEngage.org, with Adrian and Devin Talbott (sons of Bill Clinton’s foreign-policy big shot Strobe Talbott) and Cate Edwards (daughter of would-be veep John). He spoke to Greg Sargent.

So how’d you get former President Clinton to come and speak at your New York kickoff on October 25?
He believes in the cause. But it also helps to be friends with Chelsea. At her 25th birthday, Adrian was sitting right next to [Bill] and told him all about us. He generously offered to help.

What will Generation Engage do that’s new?
We’re targeting young people who aren’t in college. We hope to hire young community leaders in every state to do things like identify local hot spots—Internet cafés, bars, pool halls—and turn them into places where people talk politics.

Is this an answer to College Republicans?
No, it’s nonpartisan.

Why?
Our goal is not to push people toward one party or another—it’s to address a broader political apathy.

Does your family expect you to be involved in politics?
I doubt I’ll run for elected office. But my father’s still an inspiration. He was offered a senatorship in New York by Nelson after RFK was killed. Instead he moved to West Virginia and worked his way up to the Senate himself.

Where your great-uncle still looms large—any thoughts on his drug laws?
After junior year, I interned at Neighborhood Defender Service, and I saw the phrase DROP THE ROCK written in chalk all over Harlem. I happened to completely agree.

What’s it like being a Rockefeller?
Now I’m proud of it, but when I was younger I avoided using my last name at all costs. I signed my driver’s license “Justin Rock.”


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