State Senator Rosenberg reaches out to millennials, across the aisle

Massachusetts State Senator Stan Rosenberg spoke about youth outreach and plans for his upcoming term as senate president in the Rabb Room of the Lincoln Filene Center last Tuesday.

Alan Solomont (A ’70), the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, described Rosenberg, who represents communities in Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester Counties, as someone who has dedicated his life “to the people’s business.”

Rosenberg, who was first elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1991, asked the dozen students and faculty in attendance for advice on connecting with millennials, “because millennials are the future.”

“The inevitable life cycle marches on,” he said. “We have to stop making policy focused on the frame of reference of the boomers and their parents.”

One of his priorities when engaging with the public is “reducing cynicism,” Rosenberg explained.

Connecting to constituents through media, however, has changed drastically during his 23 years in office, Rosenberg added. When he was first elected, for example, his regional newspaper would contact him for comments almost every day.

“I was in that paper daily — voluminously,” he said. “[Now] if I get a call in six months, I’m fortunate.”

Although Rosenberg said he tries to use social media to discuss issues with the public, he finds it difficult to connect to the right people — especially the large student population in his district.

“I have almost no friends online,” he said. “But I have close to 10,000 people following me.”

Associate Dean for Research at Tisch College Peter Levine noted the ease with which political messages can be drowned out on social media feeds.

“It’s really hard to follow the election,” he said. “You can really go through social media without seeing anything about it.”

Rosenberg said he hopes to eventually leverage Twitter and Facebook, “not to bias the conversation, but at least to provide information.”

“There’s a whole new world and a whole new opportunity,” he added.

Attendees also asked Rosenberg about his plans for the Massachusetts Senate as he moves from majority leader to president. He asserted that he would fight gridlock and reverse the precedent where major decisions are made by only a few players.

“The last three senate presidents all wanted to change the world,” he said, explaining that this compromised their ability to work well with others.

Rosenberg underscored the bipartisan nature of the Massachusetts government, an attitude which he plans to continue to emphasize as Senate president.

“We listen to the Republicans,” he said. “We’ll hold hands, we’ll form a circle, we’ll sing kumbaya.”