Whoever said that age must precede greatness?
At age 19 in the year 2004, a man by the name of Mark Zuckerberg founded a site known as Facebook in his college dorm room. In 1976, two twenty-something year old men started selling and developing user-friendly computers through a small start up known as Apple Computers. And now, at age 21, a man by the name of Ken Snapp became the youngest person in history to announce a bid for mayor of Detroit.
Busy prepping for election season, Ken took some time out of his day to talk with The Leadership Projects over the phone about his campaign.
What got you to where you are today and made you want to be a leader within your community?
Two things played a role in making me who I am today: my parents and athletics. My parents worked to install a moral compass in me. They taught me to treat people fairly and do what I believe is right. Meanwhile, playing football gave me an edge in this political world. I believe in the spirit of competition, always putting my best effort forward to go forth and win. That's what got me to where I am today. There’s not a challenge I won’t take. I'm forever fighting against the establishment and forever fighting against injustice. This is something that attracted me to make a difference in my community, the fact that I wanted to go forth and pursue my goals and always try to do what is right, including fighting for everyone that doesn’t have a voice.
What made you decide to run for mayor of Detroit?
When you see people in oppression and they look like you and they have similar problems, it makes you want to do your best to try and fix those problems. I like to put other people before me, and in doing so, I try to consider everyone's future, specifically what future generations will have to live through if we don’t take care of the problems now. I coach basketball on the east side at a DPS school, and some of the students live in neighborhoods that aren’t doing so well. I see their problems and I see what they’re going through. There’s abandoned homes, trash and graffiti littering the streets, crime rates higher than they ever should be. I really want to help them, and the best way to do that is go to the highest office. My character and my ideas are necessary to help bring about a bright future for Detroit.
Being the youngest candidate in the election, did you receive any pushback from others through the process? How did you respond?
I heard that I was too young, didn't have enough experience, didn’t have enough money. So what did I do? I didn’t pay attention to them. I trust and believe that if I put in the work, I can reap the benefits of what I've sown. I have a higher spirit in me, and I don’t believe in the people telling me that I shouldn't run, those who are projecting upon me their fears and negativity. I want to go forth and do what's right. If you have the cure for something that you know others need, why wait to deliver it and let the problems progress? Would you rather have the issues dealt with by a younger person now, or wait for that same person to fix them at a later date? Would you rather have someone as mayor that acknowledges these problems exist and works to make a difference, or have elected officials that focus on the wrong issues or ignore them completely? That’s what I‘m trying to do through this process: make sure I project progressive leadership, a progressive agenda, onto Detroit and the rest of the country. Make sure we have transparency and all we do, and make sure the city realizes that all its parts matter, that all issues are addressed, not just those present in Downtown.
What's the best advice you've received since you announced your mayoral bid?
Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t do it. Continue to believe in yourself and what you believe is right. As long as you do what you believe is right, that’s all that matters. Don’t wait for change, be the change. Lastly, even though I'm running for office, I was told not to think of myself as a politician. My calling in life isn't meant to be a politician; it's meant to help people.
For more information on Ken's campaign, visit kensnappfordetroit.com.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.