Interview by Tristin Marshall
Photos by Rochelle Wilson
Jaylin McClinton, future president of the United States?
Maybe not yet, but this junior hailing from the city of Chicago is definitely on his way to the top, as his name will appear on this year’s ballot for student trustee for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
As the Illini Union Board president and a member of various student organizations, Jaylin has a little something for everybody, and is working towards meeting the needs of all students across campus.
This Political Science and African-American Studies double-major who is also on the pre-Law track is not just book smart, but also very relatable to thousands of other students on campus. The Spread had the opportunity to chat with Jaylin before his first debate to see who he is behind his political poker face.
The Spread: Tell us about the position you’re running for?
Jaylin McClinton: I’m running for the student trustee position, and specifically the spot for the Urbana-Champaign campus. The Board of Trustees is chartered in our Illinois government. It’s essentially the highest authority in the University of Illinois system. There are three students representatives on the board from each campus, so I’m running for the Urbana-Champaign seat.
TS: So that’s really the top, huh?
JM: Yes, that is the top. The head honcho. I think that it’s an exciting time because I’ve been friends with past trustees and I’ve been in an elected office before, so it’s good to make change in the positions that I’m already in, but then continue to try to make change at an even higher level. I’m excited.
TS: What sparked your interest in politics in the first place?
JM: Ever since I’ve been a young kid, I’ve always been interested in politics.
TS: Wow. So five-year old Jaylin was watching debates?
JM: Yes [laughs] and talking about being the President of the United States for sure. I think it was really rooted in the Civil Rights Movement and having a strong background centered around civil rights. My mom was very proactive in educating me about issues of discomfort, and how people had to fight to make sure it was equal for everyone. I think that initially sparked my interest in politics.
As I grew older, I started learning more about politics, whether it was through taking the U.S. Constitution in the eighth grade and preforming well on that, and then going to high school and working in governmental offices, and then coming to college and working on campaigns and actually running in student elections [and] I was like ‘wow, politics [are] cool,’ and it’s something that I can see myself doing long term.
TS: So, essentially what do you want to be when you grow up? President?
JM: [laughs] Yes, in a nutshell. So really, I’ve always been into the law and civil rights. My first goal is to become a civil rights attorney and then hopefully I can transition into politics fully. To start off, I think that I would either run for Alderman or State Senate, and then transition into being Attorney General for a state, hopefully Illinois.
I like Lisa Madigan a lot, she’s a great attorney general and I see great things for her too. Hopefully as she continues to grow in politics, I can follow in her footsteps.
After being attorney general for the state for a while, my goal is to get involved in the federal scene, so I’ll probably run for U.S. Senate. Hopefully by that time, I have a friend that’s president, and they can appoint me to be Attorney General for the United States.
An end goal completely would be to be appointed to the Supreme Court, because I think that body of people has the real authority to impact how laws are created and how they affect people in the United States.
TS: A lot of times, students want somebody that can truly represent them in a high position so that they can get the things that are really important to them. So how do you plan to be a reflection of the student body?
JM: I think that so far I’ve really diversified myself in everything that I’m doing. It’s not just being in one organization, but it’s exploring all the opportunities on campus. I think that I would be able to effectively contribute to that [and] speak about issues in all different types of communities, just from my experience on different organizations and things like that.
TS: When you’re not working on being a future politician, what else do you do with your time?
JM: I really like to exercise—running is a hobby of mine. Hanging out with friends and family—family is a strong value of mine. I try to see my mom and grandma a lot, although I am down here at school. And yeah, just friends, catching up and going out to dinner and things like that.
TS: So you pretty much sound like every other 21 year old on this campus. If you could hang out with Obama for one day, what would you plan for y’all to do?
JM: That’s a good questions. Honestly, to help mold me into the next leader. I think that Obama has done a good job of addressing some things and I think that he can improve in some areas, no one is perfect, but I do think that he has made progress in some areas. Just equipping me with that knowledge of how to address those same issues and taking it to the next level of the issues that I care about and how I can start to do the work to eventually eradicate them.
TS: So you wouldn’t be like ‘come on Obama, let’s go do something sporty’?
JM: Maybe I would ask him to race me.
TS: You think he would be up to it?
JM: Maybe. He has a good jump shot. Mine is not so good.
TS: So you think you can beat him in a race?
TS: So your campaigning has already started. Who are you intending to reach?
JM: I want to take advantage of the Greek campus. I will be going to dinner announcements to speak with them and engage with them because I feel like that is often a population that is sidetracked, like it’s non-Greeks versus Greeks, so I am really trying to engage with them and get their opinions on issues.
I think that they can really provide opinions that an average student that is not Greek might not have an opinion about, like ‘what does rape culture mean to a non-Greek student versus a Greek student and how does that differ, what are the commonalities, and what do they think are solutions to that issues.
I also want to reach out to graduate students, whose voices are often times neglected on this campus. I will also be speaking at cultural houses. I am going to get the word out and let them know about the election over the next few weeks [and]I am going to try and do a big campaign like a ‘go out to vote’ kind of thing, for sure.
TS: This is big. We’re young, and we don’t vote nearly as much as we should, and this is something that directly affects us.
JM: Yeah, there are 45,000 students on campus and during elections maybe 3,000 people vote. That’s not even ten percent. I think that there could be more students involved in the election process for sure. I’m hopeful, and I guess we’ll see what happens.
Jaylin will face off against other student trustee candidates in the first debate of the campaign season this Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Illini Union, room 407.