Welcome to Remarkable People. We’re on a mission to make you remarkable. Helping me in this episode is Olivia Julianna – a fierce Latina youth activist mobilizing millions to promote justice.

Still a teenager, Olivia is already a force progressives cheer and conservatives fear. When extremist politicians in her home state Texas severely restricted reproductive rights, Olivia fought back – flooding their anonymous tip site and rallying unprecedented donations to abortion funds.

From creating TikTok voting guides to leading youth collective Gen Z for Change, Olivia moves masses to defend civil liberties. Proud of her Queer, disabled woman of color status, she refuses silence in the face of attacks on marginalized groups. Though juggling student life, Olivia is at home both rallying at the Capitol and meeting with national leaders about championing equality.

Olivia Julianna represents the rising tide of socially conscious youth wielding their voices for change. Join us as she shares her journey, turning pain into purpose – proving the halls of power belong to the people.

Please enjoy this remarkable episode, Olivia Julianna: The Fierce Latina Leading Youth to Drive Change.

If you enjoyed this episode of the Remarkable People podcast, please leave a rating, write a review, and subscribe. Thank you!

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Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with Olivia Julianna: The Fierce Latina Leading Youth to Drive Change.

Guy Kawasaki:
I'm Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. Helping me today is Olivia Julianna. She is a fierce Gen Z activist. She champions equality and justice. She has mobilized millions of people to defend civil rights across the United States. What began as posting TikTok voting guides exploded into activism to preserve democracy, preserve LGBTQ+ rights, and prevent climate change.
She has led a crowdfunding effort that raised over two and a half million dollars for abortion access after a congressman attempted to publicly shame her. Intimately familiar with mockery over her identities, Olivia wears her queer woman of color status proudly. Olivia symbolizes the rising tide of progressive youth wielding their choices and voices. She proves that real change comes by turning pain into purpose. I'm Guy Kawasaki, this is Remarkable People. And now, here is the remarkable Olivia Julianna.
Are you or anyone you know affected by this DACA ruling?
Olivia Julianna:
I don't know anyone personally who's been affected by it. Most of my family, they've been here for a couple generations now. But just reading about, it's so disheartening. And on the one side, whenever I see something like this, I'm deeply upset by it because it's like, how are we going to continue to not treat people with basic dignity and humanity?
But the other side of me feels, I don't think that relief is the right word, but I have this sense of I know it's going to be okay because of how much politics has shifted in terms of the amount of organizing, and voter education, I think, is increasing as time goes on. And I think that people are becoming more and more aware of what's going on, and I think that people are going to start actively fighting because of things like this more and more than we've seen in the past.
And so I'm hoping that this is now going to become a legislative priority going into the next election cycle, not just for the president, but I hope that it becomes an election priority for all of the people who are running for Congress, of understanding this needs to be a top line agenda item is immigration reform that is coming from a lens of compassion and dignity rather than espousing great replacement theory talking points that we hear so often from people on the Republican side of the aisle.
Guy Kawasaki:
I'm fundamentally a marketing person. And forget that I'm as blue as can possibly be, but just intellectually, it just doesn't make sense to me that you would say, "Okay, so the population of America is getting more and more non-white, I say, and women are getting to be more and more powerful, so why don't we go and piss off all the women and all the Latinos, Latinas and all the black people.”
That's our future. That's our marketing strategy, piss off all the people who are growing and important. I just don't understand it.
Olivia Julianna:
Yeah, and you bring up a marketing strategy, I also think that we need to talk about that from an economic point of view, which is America does not have the birth rates to meet the work field that we are going to need in the next coming years. And if we don't have immigration, our economy is going to crash.
That is an undeniable fact of if we do not have people immigrating to the United States, our economy is going to suffer, and you're pissing off your constituency. And now you're trying to pass policies that actively hurt the economy. And I don't think people are pointing that fact out enough. It's contradictory and it doesn't make sense.
But it's not because their priority is winning elections. Their priority is upholding patriarchy and white supremacy and class inequality. That's why they're not making sense is because all those other things don't matter. It's about keeping their donors rich, about keeping themselves in power, and about oppressing people ultimately at the end of the day.
Guy Kawasaki:
Oh, thank you for explaining that to me because that was above my pay grade. I need to get a little personal here. Have you wrapped your head around a sitting congressman twice your age trying to humiliate you? How do you deal with something like that?
Olivia Julianna:
Oh, I was fine. I think that, and I've talked about this often, is I think a lot of folks victimized me throughout that story. And I am so humbled by people empathizing with me and being concerned, but I knew what I was doing. I worked in politics.
At the time, I was working in a youth-led nonprofit as the political director, and I baited Matt Gaetz. I was just surprised that he actually took the bait. And throughout that entire thing, I put out the original tweet. I knew that if he saw it would piss him off, but that's what I wanted to do because I wanted him to take the bite, because I knew we'd be able to turn it to something positive.
I just didn't think that he would be stupid enough to do it in such a dumb way. I thought maybe I'd get a tweet, but a whole speech and all this stuff and talking to reporters. I don't think that he navigated it as politically savvy as he could, but I always knew that's what I was going to do.
I was ready to go and take that and run into the stratosphere. And on this list, this is why when this all happened, I got on Twitter and I said, "Thanks, Matt Gaetz. You handed me a national platform on a silver platter where I can now talk to the world about abortion rights and the year that Roe was overturned."
And that's what happened. I think it's not just grasping with the fact that the sitting member of Congress came after me. I've grasped that. That doesn't surprise me. People in the Freedom Caucus are literally children. They don't understand basic marketing or governmental functions. But what I still have trouble grasping is how big of a story it actually was.
I know that we raised a lot of money, but I have trouble acknowledging this was not just a story that made headlines here. This was a story that was written about all over the world. There were articles in India. There are articles that were written in Dutch, Spanish, Australia. It was a global story, and I still don't fully grasp that.
I'll look through my social media following analytics or my comments, and it's like, why do I have so many people from Canada and the United Kingdom and Australia following me? And it's because of that story. And I think it's absolutely insane.
Guy Kawasaki:
In other words, you could not have planned it better.
Olivia Julianna:
I would say that's fair to say.
Guy Kawasaki:
So that dumbass did you a favor.
Olivia Julianna:
Guy Kawasaki:
But okay, as a technique, would you care to shed some light on how to make zingers, because, man, you wipe the floor with him. So you got any insights, how to wipe the floor with people on social media?
Olivia Julianna:
With people like Matt Gaetz, he's an easy target. He's an alleged pedophile. He has a horrible track record legislatively. Bottom line is typically, I don't like to resort to name calling or juvenile tactics. Keep it classy.
I don't need to say that you're a stupid idiot. I think I would much rather be like, "Okay, Matt Gaetz, you are an alleged pedophile. You are an ineffective lawmaker who has not been able to pass any notable pieces of legislation in your tenure, even though you're a nepo baby who got your position because your dad has money in a political position." I've always found that the intellectual insults are so much more poignant and jabby than the other ones, and people are very receptive to them.
And Matt Gaetz wasn't the first person who I've had run ins with. I had run ins with the now impeached Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton. I've had run ins with Governor Glenn Youngkin. I was routinely ratioing Markwayne Mullin, and all these other Republicans talking about, "You can't say this because you voted no on this bill."
It's just holding them accountable with their own actions, I've found is the most effective way to get these people to shut up or to swing the political hammer in your favor.
Guy Kawasaki:
You are their worst nightmare. You are just everything that they stand against basically
Olivia Julianna:
I am.
Guy Kawasaki:
That's why we wanted you so bad on this podcast.
Olivia Julianna:
I actually talked about this article many times out there that talks about this exactly where the journalist asked me, she was like, "What do you think?" And I was like, I think that everything they say is projection. I think the right, specifically people in the Freedom Caucus, are constantly talking about people, they're hypersensitive, they're offended easily, they're all these things, and I think that is just a confession of themselves.
They're constantly whining about these culture war issues that nobody cares about because it's easier to do that than to actually do their job. I think that people who are affiliated with me and like me, we're a lot tougher than these people are. And I've faced battles a lot tougher than Matt Gaetz name calling me in my life. That's not a big deal to me. And so I think ultimately, they're the whiny little snowflakes that they like to say that we are. I think that they're thin skinned and that they can't handle the heat.
Guy Kawasaki:
So are you saying basically on a day-to-day basis, the stupidity and the hatred you deal with, it just rolls off your back and it energizes you.
Olivia Julianna:
Absolutely. Hate comments, regardless of who they're from really do not bother me at all.
Guy Kawasaki:
And how did you get to that point?
Olivia Julianna:
I grew up a plus size closeted Mexican girl in rural Texas. I've been bullied since I was like five years old. And I don't know what happened. And especially being Mexican, and anyone who's Latino who hears this will agree with me, when you're Mexican, the meanest people to you are your own family members. I have been conditioned for this since I was a child.
I would be at Christmas dinner and my grandparents would be saying the most ruthless things to me. Every insecurity that someone tries to point out at me online, my Tias have been pointing out since I was five years old. I'm like, I'm built for this. It's genetics. I was built to take this kind of criticism.
Guy Kawasaki:
Olivia, if this activism thing doesn't work out, you should go into standup comedy. I see a future for you, man.
Olivia Julianna:
Maybe. Sometimes I feel like working in activism and politics, I am doing standup comedy because I'm working with clowns constantly on the other side.
Guy Kawasaki:
One of my theories in life is that a sense of humor is one of the most dependable signs of intelligence.
Olivia Julianna:
I agree with that. I think that we need more politicians who have a sense of humor. I think it humanizes them, and I think it makes people feel like they can open up and talk about this kind of stuff more. And I think this goes back to a point I made a little bit earlier about there are a lot of Republicans out there who like me, and it's because most of the time, I respond to a lot of the criticism with humor.
I had a guy on Twitter the other day, he's trying to body shame me. And I was like, "All right, that's great, Tommy. Why don't you come meet me in the weight room. Let's go work out together." And I'm serious. Let's do it. Let's race. I've challenged people to races. I've challenged people to arm wrestling matches. I'm like, you want to be about it, then be about it, because I'm about it and I can do it. What are we doing here?
Guy Kawasaki:
I love when you told Gaetz, "I'm 5'11, 6'4 in heels, and I do that because I want people like you to feel as small as you are," or something like that, right?
Olivia Julianna:
Yep. Yep. That was about it, was, "I wear them to remind small men like you of your place." And it works. It's true. I wear heels often in politics, and it really does affect the way that men in politics treat me. This is a real thing. It's like a secret weapon. I've said this before in heels, I am taller than Ted Cruz. If I ever meet him in person, I will actually be able to physically look down on him. This is a real thing that I have consistently held to be a true fact.
Guy Kawasaki:
I would pay to see that. So you can look down on him both physically and intellectually, right?
Olivia Julianna:
Guy Kawasaki:
Now, you might have to go to Cancun to see him.
Olivia Julianna:
Yeah, Lord knows he's not facing his constituents.
Guy Kawasaki:
We're going to really digress because I can just tell you're that kind of person. We can digress. You go to the University of Houston, which is not exactly Ivy League. I don't mean that as an insult, that's just a statement of fact.
But you ever wonder this pendejo, he went to Harvard Law School, he went to Yale. And Hawley, Gaetz, all these people went to Ivy League schools. Do you ever wonder what the hell happens to people in Ivy League schools?
Olivia Julianna:
Here's the thing, I actually think that Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are very intelligent people. That's the thing. I think that they are very smart. I think that we do a disservice and downplay how dangerous they actually are when we act as if they don't know what they're doing.
Ted Cruz is a moron if you're somebody who is inside of politics. I call it insider baseball. If you're somebody who is in politics and you're listening to what you have to say, you're like, "This guy has no idea what he's talking about." But the reality is Ted Cruz did go to an Ivy league university. He clerked for a Supreme Court justice.
He's a very intelligent man. He just chooses to act like he is not, because if he acts like he's not, then we don't see him as a legitimate threat, when the reality is Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are voracious at right-wing legislative strategy and helping enact horrible policies that harm people, both federally and on a state level on a consulting basis.
So that being said, I go to University of Houston-Victoria. I go to a satellite campus. It's not an Ivy League school by any means, but I think that's just more reflective on the fact that more people like me who have our political experience from tangible groundwork and growing up feeling policy failure need to be empowered so that we can say, "I don't have a silver spoon in my mouth like some of these people, and I see what they're doing. And this is wrong, and we need to do something to fix that."
So that being said, I think Ted Cruz is a very dangerous person. I don't think that he is just this moron who does silly stuff. I think he's really good at, okay, yeah, Ted Cruz is online screaming about Bud Light because he wants to get brownie points. Okay, but let's talk about the fact that there are 7,000 Anheuser-Busch jobs in his constituency that he's not taking into account. That is dangerous. And it's not because he's not thinking about it. It's because he just doesn't care. Take an aside.
Guy Kawasaki:
Well, Olivia, you are trying to tell me that I should believe that Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are so smart that they purposely are doing what is seemingly stupid.
Olivia Julianna:
Don't take it from me. Take it from Mitt Romney. The Atlantic article that came out last night about Mitt Romney's biography. Mitt Romney says he believes Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to be two of the smartest people in government.
And I think we've come to a point, at least, when it comes to very basic principles and morals, I'm willing to listen to Mitt Romney when it comes to things like that because he's shown, I think when it comes to basic foundations of government and of the Constitution, that he's willing to be on the right side of history.
So I'll listen to him when he says that, and I've thought that for a very long time. I don't think that somebody like Ted Cruz gets to the position that he's been in by failing upwards. I think that he's calculated. And I think something else. And you know what? Actually, I'm so glad that you brought this up. Something that a lot of people don't talk about is the fact that both Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz have brilliant women behind them.
Ted Cruz's wife is a Goldman Sachs bank affiliated person who is largely known for being the blunt of his political operation. Josh Hawley's wife is a very powerful attorney who argues anti-abortion cases in front of the federal government.
Both of these men are not just legislators in the US Senate, they are married to very intelligent women who are also having conversations with them about how to act in the US Senate. And no one ever talks about that. These women have extremely successful careers that they are using and yielding to make these men act on their behalf legislatively on top of their own intentions while they hold these positions of power.
Guy Kawasaki:
Okay, Olivia. Going forward, I'll tell people that I believe that both of them are highly intelligent with highly intelligent wives, but I really don't believe that, but it's safer to say that and be wrong than to say they're stupid and be wrong.
Olivia Julianna:
I think that's very fair. I think that's a fair thing to say.
Guy Kawasaki:
Here's a funny story. So I'm writing a book called Think Remarkable, and it reflects the 200 interviews that I've had for this podcast, as well as my forty years of experience. And along the way, I met this teacher named Kelly Gibson. She's a public school teacher outside of Oregon, 2,500 person city. And she is one of the most remarkable people I've met in this podcast.
So I gave her the draft of the book. And she comes back to me, she goes, "Guy, I read the first half of your book. I'm telling you, my students do not know anybody you've cited. They don't know Jane Goodall. They don't know Kristi Yamaguchi. They don't know Ronnie Lott, Brandi Chastain. They don't know “Woz” they don't know all these people."
And I say, "Who am I supposed to get that they will pick up the book and say, 'Shit, I got to read this book'?" And you know who she said? Olivia Julianna.
Olivia Julianna:
You're kidding.
Guy Kawasaki:
No. And then so first of all, just to show you how open and transparent, I had to say, who is Olivia Julianna? This is three months ago. Okay? And then I did research on you, and I said, holy shit, I could see why. I could see why.
That's when we went on this mission to get you. So I'm telling you all this because in my mind, you represent Gen Z for Bob Boomer here. Okay? So you're bringing me out of the Dark ages. So I want to know what are the two or three most important issues to Gen Z?
Olivia Julianna:
This is a very layered question, and I think that this plays into something that I think is an inherent problem within democratic politics, is youth are often seen as a monolith. And I think that there's this cookie cutter idea of, okay, if we want to empower Gen Z, then we're going to talk about abortion, gun violence, climate change. That's our messaging for them.
And I think that a lot of times, that's crafted around polling that comes out about young people who were already voters. And the reality is that there are millions of young people out there who are not politically engaged because people are not meeting them where they are, and they are not talking to them about the issues that matter most to them.
That being said, I think that young people are not just young people. Young people are students, they're parents, they're workers, they're renters, they're union organizers, they're abortion rights activists, they're caretakers for their family.
I think in the same way that we don't treat millennials or Gen Xers or Boomers as a monolith, we understand the diversity in them, we have to start understanding the diversity of young people, and in particular, the diversity of Gen Z.
This is the most racially diverse, politically diverse, ideologically diverse generation we've seen it a really long time, and a lot of that is based in the different experiences our generation has had compared to other generations.
So a sentence that I often say that people are mind blown about when they're older is, I have never lived in a world where 9/11 did not happen. I was born after 9/11. I was born into a world where the war on terror had already started, where I was growing up in the midst of economic recessions, the election of Barack Obama with the plague of school shootings.
And then you see a lot of people in my generation on our most formative years, pre-adulthood, in high school, we're taken out of school by a global pandemic. So we've faced all these extremely unique generational issues, a lot of which are caused by policy failure or policy inaction.
And then we're told to just go live our lives in adulthood where it's become increasingly more difficult to afford a home, where it's become increasingly more difficult to get a college education. And so we have no choice but to be politically engaged. And for those who aren't politically engaged. I think it's not because they don't care.
I think it's because they don't think it'll make a difference. And so when it comes to understanding Gen Z, the core principle is understanding that we can't just keep treating young people like they're young people, because the reality is Gen Z at our age, we currently at are the most civically engaged generation we have ever seen politically, in terms of voting and in terms of voter education. I know that was a very broad answer.
Guy Kawasaki:
Let's get out of the theoretical, right? Joe Biden calls you up and says, "Hey, I saw your post on threads, how you said I'm a great president. Help me get re-elected, Olivia. Come on board my campaign." And you tell Joe Biden, of course you say yes, but then what do you do? What do you tell Joe Biden, "This is how to lock and load Gen Z?"
Olivia Julianna:
I told Joe Biden to talk about one, the contrast between what he has done and what Republicans are doing and want to do. So I say, okay, you need to talk about how all these major pieces of legislation that you've passed affect the lives of young people. You need to have young people talking about how it affects the lives of young people.
And so the story that I tangible use often is I was able to go to my first year of college, I went to a community college because of the American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan paid my tuition my entire freshman year of college and gave me enough money afterwards to buy my textbooks and supplies I needed for school.
That was done because of the American Rescue plan. It was also done because Democrats and the Omnibus Bill expanded Pell Grants. You need to talk about the tangible legislative things that you have done to help Americans and help them understand that the changes that they've seen, either in their education or community, have come from legislation that you have passed.
That's the first thing you would do. The second thing you would do is we have to talk to young people about the economy. And I actually had a meeting in the White House a couple of months ago where I specifically said we need a youth economic agenda that is concentrated in this country. Don't talk about the economy broadly.
I need you to set forward specifically how you are going to economically empower young people and how you have already laid the groundwork to do that. Because they have. If we are rebuilding the infrastructure in our communities, that affects the longevity of young people going into older adulthood in terms of, where are you going to establish your family?
We're talking about Pell Grant expansion. We're talking about student loan forgiveness. These are things that have already started happening economically. The foundation has been laid. You need to expand on it now. You laid the bricks down.
Now, I need to talk about how you're going to build the house and what you're going to put inside of it. So I would say talk about, how are we going to empower young people in the economy because it's really hard to say, "Hey, the economy isn't great standing”, when there are a lot of folks who can't pay their rent, and there are a lot of folks who are having trouble buying groceries.
I understand as a politico, I know that's not Joe Biden's fault. I know our supply chains are recovering from COVID. I know that a lot of state legislatures are responsible for the issues that we're seeing, like low minimum wages. I know that, but it's because that's my job to know that we need to communicate what we need to do in order to empower people more financially, especially young people who are entering adulthood.
And I think that we're going to see more executive action coming before the presidential election to do that. But he has a record to run on. This isn't 2020 where he's saying, "Oh, I'm going to do all this for young people." This is 2023 where he has already done things. This is not about getting him to do things.
This is about marketing the fact that he has already started. And if we want this progress to continue, we have to put him back in the White House. And not just put him back in the White House, but I think the third thing, and I think that this is the most crucial, not just for young people, but for politics in general, is getting people to understand the dynamics of intergovernmental work.
We need people to understand that in order for us to rebuild our roads, to rebuild our schools, to tangibly better our community that we are living in every day, we need Joe Biden in the White House.
We need democratic governors in the governor's mansion. We need state legislatures that are controlled by Democrats. We need city councils and county commissions and mayors that are going to fulfill this agenda and let that federal money run all the way down the stream until we can tangibly see it in our community.
We need elected officials and people who are campaigning to talk about how they are going to work with the elected officials that we see all the time in our communities to make our lives better. If I'm a regular person, chances are I'm never going to meet Joe Biden.
But if I'm a regular person living in Fort Bend County, Texas, there's a good chance that I'm going to meet my county commissioner or my county judge, and I need to know that they're going to be able to take the funding that has been passed through Joe Biden's White House and implement changes in my community that I want to see done.
Guy Kawasaki:
Okay. Can I just ask you a dumb question?
Olivia Julianna:
Guy Kawasaki:
Have you ever had your IQ tested?
Olivia Julianna:
Guy Kawasaki:
I'm telling you, you are freaking Mensa material.
Olivia Julianna:
Thank you.
Guy Kawasaki:
Olivia. You mark my words, you will win a MacArthur Fellowship.
Olivia Julianna:
I'm going to be honest with you, I don't know what that is.
Guy Kawasaki:
When they call you up and they say, you've won a MacArthur Fellowship, you call me up and I'll explain it to you.
Olivia Julianna:
Guy Kawasaki:
So in the things that you just listed, none of them were talk smack about the GOP, what they're trying to do to you. So are you saying, "Keep the message, Joe, completely positive. Don't talk about they took away your abortion rights, they took away black history, they took away this"?
Olivia Julianna:
No, I have a very basic equation that I have for all political issues, which is problem plus hope equals change. The problem is that a Donald Trump Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. That's the problem. The hope is that we elect two or three more democratic senators who will abolish the filibuster and codify Roe V. Wade through the United States Congress and put that bill onto the desk of President Joe Biden, and the changes we codify Roe V. Wade.
The problem is that Republicans are banning books in school. The hope is that we have state boards of education and governor's elections that are going to happen that are going to change the dynamic of power to where then public schools are no longer being attacked and books aren't being banned.
You can't just run campaigns based on fear. Running campaigns based on fear is a Republican strategy that works because the Republican party is propped up by fear and propped up by oppression. The democratic party is not propped up by fear and oppression. It's propped up by hope and systemic change. And so we have to run on, here's the problem and here's how we're going to fix it. Because if we run just on fear, we will lose every single time.
Guy Kawasaki:
You are just a quote machine. My God. It's like everything comes out of your mouth is quotable.
Olivia Julianna:
Thank you. I try.
Guy Kawasaki:
I want to meet your grandparents.
Olivia Julianna:
Here's the funny thing, actually. I am an ideological anomaly in my family. I'm the only Democrat. Every person in my family is a conservative. And the person who really has shaped my political mind is my dad. My dad is a John McCain Republican. I grew up in a very conservative Christian household. Fox & Friends on the news every single morning, watched every single presidential election all through my childhood. I self-identified as a Republican until I was about fourteen.
And when I got to high school, my freshman year is when Trump was sworn in, and I joined my debate class and I had to start researching these fictional topics, but I had to be able to argue both sides of the issue. When I started doing that, I started realizing so many of the political things that I had been taught were not factually correct. And I started switching.
And then eventually as time went on, I became a Democrat. But my dad, to this day, is the reason why I am so voracious at understanding democratic politics and understanding politics in general because my dad was a political science major in college, but he ended up having to drop out of school to raise his family because my mom got pregnant, and he got hurt.
He was on a football scholarship. So my dad had to drop out of college, but he always kept an instilled in me that democracy and civic engagement is extremely important, and you need to be informed on it, to the point of, I think I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, and there was a school board election in my city. And our city was totally flooded.
Our front yard was covered in water. It had just rained and rained and rained. And I watched my dad put on, I think they're called gators, which is a very country way of saying basically big rubber boots that go to your midsection.
Guy Kawasaki:
Olivia Julianna:
And he carried me to the truck so that he could go vote in that school board election. That is the level of importance around democracy and politics that has been instilled in me from a very young age by my father.
Guy Kawasaki:
Just FYI, we interviewed someone named John Conyers a few weeks ago, and he lived in the projects, both parents crack addicts. And he joined the debate team in his high school, became very close to his debate team coach, and that changed the arc of his life.
So there's something to be said for debate. But you open another door for me, which is can you explain to me how any Latino people can be hardcore conservatives? That just boggles my mind. Trump is saying that Latinos are rapists and murderers. How can any Latino people possibly support somebody who says that?
Olivia Julianna:
I think it's a much deeper, larger issue than people think. Number one, the idea that there is a large swath of Latinos out there that are diehard Republican voters is just factually incorrect. The data doesn't match that. I think it is a talking point that is pushed to try to change that narrative.
Because even if you look at the governor's election that just happened here in Texas last year, Greg Abbott had his celebration in south Texas, which is predominantly Latino. But the reality is South Texas overwhelmingly voted blue in that election.
But as far as what goes when we take immigration out of the equation, if we are talking about what matters to Latinos the most in terms of maybe older Latinos, or Latinos who are raised in more conservative areas, it tends to be the economy.
And what we've seen happen is, and I believe that this is, again, a tool of white supremacy, is we have seen marginalized communities be turned against each other in the name of upholding white supremacy.
And I think that's reflected by the census. And if you're like, "What does that mean?" In the US census, in the racial categories, if you are somebody who is Latino, you are considered to be white. But if you look at my father and you look at my family members, it is very evident that they are not white people.
They are not white. They do not benefit from white privilege. They're darker skinned people who face the discrimination based on that fact. But because of how white supremacy operates, when it feels its power weakening, it expands. So that's why if you look back to when America was found and all this stuff, all of these ethnic groups were discriminated against.
Latinos were discriminated against. Black Americans were discriminated against. Native Americans were discriminated against. But as coalitions of communities of color started to work together, it was then necessary for white supremacy to maintain its power for it to expand its scope.
And that includes bringing in Latino demographics to continue to establish their power. And when we talk about how can Mexican people support this, I think that plays a part in it, is there is a perception to some Latinos that they're in the inside, like they're a part of the in-game, like we are not like the other marginalized communities.
But I think that there's this other part of it that I've seen in my own family of I came here legally, and I didn't have help, and I had to struggle and scrape by to get to where I am, so I don't think that anyone else should have it easier than I did.
And I think that's just this toxic mentality that doesn't just affect the Latino community but affects older generations as well. They think if I had to struggle, everybody else should too. And I don't think that you shouldn't have had to struggle. You shouldn't have had to deal with all those things.
So I think a lot of it is based in wanting proximity to power. I think that it is the fact that for one, I don't think that the Democratic party has done near as much genuine outreach to Latinos as they should, but I also think a lot of it is based in this kind of idea of I worked, you should have to work too. So it's a very complex issue.
But the reality is most Latino people are Democrats. They vote for Democrats. And for those who don't vote, because there are a lot of Latinos out there who do not vote, I think it's because people haven't asked them to. They haven't asked. They assume. And I think that's a larger problem in democratic politics in general, is the assumption that marginalized communities will vote for you.
I don't think that's true. I think that every voter should be campaigned to. Every voter should have genuine dialogue and opportunities open to them. And I think that if we start seeing that more and more, and I think we have started seeing that more and more. And someone who I point to who I think did a great job was Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania. The more and more engaged, I think we'll see these communities start to be.
Guy Kawasaki:
So for Boomers who, in my mind, we blew it. And now it's your turn. Me and Mitt Romney, we agree on that. It is your turn to run this country. So what can Boomers like me do to help you?
Olivia Julianna:
I think that that the biggest thing, so first, I think for context, we have to understand that, yes, I work in politics now, this is my job, but I started in abortion activism work. The history of the anti-abortion movement is that organizers, before Ronald Reagan was elected president, started organizing in city councils and state legislatures.
They started local in organizing the anti-abortion movement. And now, we've seen that scale up to national anti-abortion organizing. And it was successful. They worked for fifty years to get Roe V. Wade overturned. On the counter side of that, I think in order to counteract a lot of the things that we've seen, we have to tackle it from a federal perspective, but we also have to invest in long-term local organizing.
For older folks who, "What can we do to make a difference?" I think what you can do to make a difference always is financially, obviously if you have money. Giving to federal candidates is really important. Yeah.
I don't think that Joe Biden is exactly hurting for cash, but I know a lot of state legislators in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona, that are strapped, that are running an election that could be winnable if they had the money, but they don't.
So I think start investing in local races across the country, state legislators, city councils, county commissions. I think that there is a real opportunity for Democrats to set the precedent now, so that twenty, thirty years from now, because mark my words, twenty to thirty years from now, there will be another surge of right-wing extremism, and we need to build the foundation now to be able to counteract that.
And I say that because books are being taken out of schools. The history that children are being taught is different than what actually happened. We are actively seeing history be whitewashed and parts of it be erased in public schools.
It's happening in Florida right now. On top of that, social media has led to the radicalization of a large swath, multi-generational swath of men becoming radicalized to accept and espouse white supremacist ideas, patriarchal ideas, and classist ideas.
And I fundamentally believe that twenty to thirty years from now when these teenagers and these children who are seeing these things online who are being radicalized, who are not being taught the truth about history, come to a voting age and come to the age that they are the people who were in representative jobs, they are the candidates running for these offices, we are going to have to combat that.
And I've said that I fully believe that we are going to have another Ronald Reagan-like era happen if we do not set the foundation to counteract it right now. It's not just about combating Republican extremism that we are seeing in the year of 2023. It is about setting the foundation and a protective layer around democracy for the issues that we are going to see in 2053.
Guy Kawasaki:
So what's the Olivia Julianna top three tips in utilizing social media to effectuate change?
Olivia Julianna:
Number one is I think that a broad coalition is best. I think we see this online a lot, is the left, online at least, eats our own a lot. And I'm guilty of this. I've done it in the past and I've reflected on this. I think that whether you are somebody who is more ideologically aligned with Joe Biden, whether you are somebody who is more ideologically aligned with Bernie Sanders, or whether you are somebody who is more ideologically aligned with Stacey Abrams or Elizabeth Warren, at the end of the day, we all agree on the core tenements.
We agree public education should be protected. We agree that individuals should have the ability to make decisions about their own body. We agree that we should make voting easier. We agree that immigrants should be treated with humanity and dignity. We agree about all these things. And I think if we don't cast a broad net, then we are hurting more than we are helping.
I think that we understand we can have these kind of dynamic conversations, but I think that there is so much, I'm right, you're wrong. That's not how we affect change. That is not how we organize together.
So number one is cast a wide net. Don't alienate people because you disagree on the semantics, even though you disagree on the core principles. Number two is be clear about what it is you want to accomplish. If I want to fundraise for abortion, then I'm going to just flat out say, "I'm fundraising for abortion because Matt Gaetz attacked me."
I'm not going to say, "Oh, I support abortion. That's it." Every single time you have attention, that is an opportunity to catalyze change. Every single time I've had eyes on me, I've thrown it to do something else. So for example, when the Matt Gaetz thing happened, which I baited him, which is another strategy that you can use if you'd like, which is baiting prominent members of Congress in the Freedom Caucus.
Guy Kawasaki:
It's too easy.
Olivia Julianna:
It's too easy. When I had the attention, I did two things. A lot of people talk about the abortion fundraising. Not a lot of people talk about the fact that I actively took that to highlight races and elections that were important to the pro-choice movement. I put out a letter with a list of elections that I thought were fundamentally important to protecting abortion rights across the country.
So I had Tony Evers, J.B. Pritzker, Josh Shapiro, Stacey Abrams, Beto O'Rourke, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, John Fetterman. I had a laundry list of people, and each state that I put on there, it had the Senate candidate or the governor candidate, attorney general, lieutenant governor, every single one of them.
Then from there, it made people look into these races. "Okay, this girl who's doing this abortion work is talking about, this is probably important." I have had candidates tell me that after I put those letters out, they saw a surge in volunteers and a surge in donations. Because when you have attention, don't just use it as, okay, I'm going to use this attention for narrative change.
Use it for narrative change and tangible change. Direct people to an action, because people want to help, they want to do something, but they don't know how. And that would lead me to the third point, which is, when you do have an action, make sure that it's something that people can do. So it's easy for me to ask people to donate to abortion funds. It's easy for me to ask people to text bank for candidates like Raphael Warnock.
That's easy. And because it's an easier ask, people are more inclined to do it. Even if the ask is retweeting to raise awareness, retweet this so that we have people understand that this is an issue we need to be paying attention to, always ask people for something and make the ask as easy as you possibly can.
And the fourth thing is be honest and intentional about what it is you're trying to do and how it's going to tangibly affect people's lives. I'm trying to think of a good example for this. Okay. Use your personal stories to motivate people to do stuff. On my birthday last year, I was turning twenty years old. I have this audience.
Okay, what am I going to do? On my birthday last year, Raphael Warnock was running for reelection to the U.S Senate, and he had a runoff election. I said, "Okay, guys, I'm turning twenty. If you want to give me a birthday present, donate to Senator Warnock's reelection campaign." Just from doing that on my socials, asking people to send me a birthday present, I was able to raise fifty-five thousand dollars for Raphael Warnock's campaign.
I think that the key is keep your coalition broad, have tangible actions that are easy tied to your messaging, and use your personal relatable stories to motivate people. And then you will be able to create tangible change.
Guy Kawasaki:
What is the essence of Olivia Julianna? How do people wrap their mind around you? What are you?
Olivia Julianna:
Honestly, I think that the last couple years of my life have not been anything I ever expected them to be. I think that my childhood shaped a lot of who I am as a person and as an individual. Like I said, I grew up working class kid, rural Texas. My parents got divorced when I was fourteen, so all through high school, I was raised in a single-parent household.
My dad was the one taking care of me. Throughout my childhood, if it's an issue you can think of, I dealt with it. I dealt with watching people in my immediate family deal with drug addiction. I dealt with watching my dad having to ration insulin because he couldn't afford his medication.
I watched my teachers work second jobs to be able to continue to teach. I watched my parents freak out financially. I've been evicted from multiple houses through my childhood.
Even into high school, I didn't know how I was going to pay for college. I was accepted to a couple of really good schools because I worked my ass off in high school because no one in my immediate family has a college degree. Two of my sisters had to drop out of high school to take care of not just our family, but of themselves.
I worked my ass off through high school. Senior year on a four-point scale, I had a 3.68 GPA. I was class president, senior student council president, FCA president, yearbook editor, prom queen. I did every extracurricular I could think of. I took every AP class that was available to me to work my ass off to maybe have the possibility of going to a school like Rice, of going to a school like Baylor or going to a school like UT.
And at the end of the day, I couldn't do it because I couldn't afford it. I couldn't afford to go to those schools.
And so I enrolled in community college, and I let what had been for my entire childhood, the dream I had slip away because I knew it was not realistic for me to attain. And so through my childhood and through my own experiences, and also listening to the experience of my grandfather, growing up, they were so poor that they literally had dirt floors in their house.
My grandfather telling me stories of living along the banks of the Rio Grande River as a kid and how they would sleep in the trees because they didn't have anywhere else to go. And so listening to him, and then my lived experiences of watching all these things, and then all the generational experiences I've had, I think have shaped me into who I am today. And I think that the core of who I am and what I do is I'm a fourth generation Texan.
My family has been here for over 100 years, and I've watched how hard that they've worked to establish themselves here and how hard my grandparents worked, and my great grandparents worked to make something of themselves and their families.
And I love my home, I love where I'm from, and I can't give up on it. I think a lot of people look at me as, oh, she's in politics. My number one priority always has and always will be to make Texas what my great grandparents believed it was when they immigrated here. They immigrated here because they saw Texas as a ticket to their American dream.
And I don't think that they ever got in the position to achieve it. And so I talk about Texas being important to me. One of the most famous politicians and icons to ever come out of Texas was Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.
And she was the first black woman from the South elected to Congress. She was on the committee that impeached Nixon and held his feet to the fire. And she's just this powerhouse. And she has this quote where she says, "I believe it is in the soil and spirit of Texas that gives me the ability as an individual to accomplish anything."
That's not exactly it. I'm paraphrasing, but I often say my great-grandparents immigrated here. They were literally working in the fields to make money and to make ends meet.
So it was literally in the fields and in the soil of Texas that my great-grandparents planted what I call the seeds of my American dream, which is the fact that a girl who grew up in rural Texas, who couldn't afford to go to college, in the span of two or three years, has now met the president of the United States, has had meetings in the White House.
And I've gone from not having any idea if I'd economically survive and have a future, and not just in politics, but just in life. I was in college to be a teacher before all this happened, but now I am financially secure, I have a seat at the table, and I can fight for the Texas and the America that my grandparents envisioned when they came here because of the work that not only my family did, but generations of activists and organizers have been fighting to achieve.
So in the essence of who is Olivia Julianna, I'm just a young woman who really loves her home, and really loves her family, and wants to give people the opportunities and fulfill the promise that America itself made in the Constitution to all people.
Guy Kawasaki:
Let me be perfectly clear. I think that people like Olivia Julianna are going to save the United States, if not democracy in general. I'm Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People. We're on a mission to make you remarkable.
Speaking of, Madisun and I have completed a book called Think Remarkable: Nine Paths to Transform Your Life and Make a Difference. One of the people featured in our book is, of course, Olivia Julianna. We hope that you'll check it out. I guarantee you it will help you make a difference and be remarkable.
Now, let me thank the rest of the Remarkable People, team Madisun Nuismer, co-author and producer, Tessa Nuismer, researcher, proofreader, copy editor, the sound design team, Shannon Hernandez, and Jeff Sieh, and finally, Fallon Yates, Alexis Nishimura, and Luis Magaña. This is Your Remarkable People team. And in 2024, we're going to help you transform your life and make a difference. Until next time, mahalo and aloha.