For Second Straight Year, UT Produces A Top College-Level Political Leader

UT business junior Alejandra Salinas has just been elected president of the College Democrats of America, becoming the national organization’s first Hispanic leader.

Impressively enough, she is also the second consecutive Longhorn to serve as CDA president. Katie Naranjo, BA ’09, BS ’09, led the country’s college-age Democrats for the last two years. 

After being elected at the CDA’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday and flying back to Austin on Monday, Salinas woke up Tuesday to her new normal: 50 e-mails in her inbox, with another message landing every five minutes.

That’s only the beginning of what’s to come. Naranjo became a media veteran, meeting President Barack Obama and other officials and being quoted in USA Today, the Economist, and the New York Times. Salinas has already met Obama and many Democratic National Committee heavyweights (she’ll sit on the DNC as well). And she’s quickly getting familiar with news interviews.

“A lot of people have asked me if this was the protégée project, but it really wasn’t,” Salinas says. “Our backgrounds are very different — Katie is from Lufkin, in East Texas, and I’m from a border town. Although our passion for CDA is the same, our other passions are different.”

Case in point: While Naranjo pushed hard for health care reform, Salinas says immigration policy is perhaps her top issue.

Immigration launched her political involvement, after all. As a Laredo sophomore in 2006, Salinas organized a walk-out at her high school to protest immigration policies she saw as discriminatory and flawed.

School administrators got wind of the plans and persuaded many students not to participate, but Salinas says she “cut a deal” with them to hold a school-wide forum on immigration. The event was recorded, and tapes were sent to members of Congress. From that point on, she was hooked on politics.

UT has served as pipeline for a number of future political types who were involved in student government and political organizations on campus. Among them are Rep. Lloyd Doggett and CNN commentator Paul Begala. 

When Salinas arrived on the Forty Acres, UT’s politically conscious, activist atmosphere excited her. “It clicked with me instantly — it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 19 years old,” she says. “You can make a difference in the process.”


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