Why you should care
Because calling your congressman is so 20th century.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to the streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
My day’s going well. It started around 10 a.m. when I woke up — I went to bed late last night after finishing assignments. I got some coffee and went to biochemistry class. We were learning about DNA replication today.
My dad is an orthopedic surgeon. Most of my childhood was spent in a suburb of Milwaukee, but we lived in New Zealand and Australia for a year while my dad was doing his fellowship.
When I visited Stanford, I loved the people here — very down-to-earth and relaxed and very high caliber. I’m now a sophomore and pre-med. I was initially interested in medicine, but I’ve also explored a lot more in business because we’re in Silicon Valley, and there are tech people and entrepreneurs all over the place. There’s that exciting vibe you get from everybody. So I’ve definitely been taking advantage.
I’ve been interested in politics and business for a long time, and in making some tangible change in the world and trying to make it better. The ePluribus platform is an idea that really stuck out as a way to begin to make an impact on the world before I go through eight years of medical school training and a fellowship and all of that.
I came up with the idea with my brother, who’s a junior at Stanford, last summer in a hotel room on a trip to Half Moon Bay. As the election cycle was happening — all the craziness with Trump and Hillary and Bernie, all of the health care issues — there was no meaningful way, it seemed, to have your voice be heard unless you have lots of money or the right connections. We wanted to allow regular people to have a voice again. I had this idea to wiki-edit legislation: People could write it together and propose it to Congress. That was just a seed that got us talking, and the idea morphed into what it is today — a way to contact representatives and inform them about what their constituents are thinking.
The way people contact their representatives right now is through phone calls, emails, letters. Representatives have to pay staffers to go through all those forms of communication to get a high-level overview of what people are saying, but communication has soared while staffing has been static. They really can’t process that amount of information in any meaningful way, which means people aren’t being heard.
On ePluribus, you give your personal information, including your home address. The platform finds your representatives, and you can choose who you want to contact. You can then choose from a list of issues, compose a message and send it to the representative. The data from that message is automatically analyzed, giving representatives a live dashboard of what their constituents are saying. They can filter by particular district and see what Democratic men are saying about education, for example. They can reply, and when they view your comment, you get a notification, so you know when you’re having an impact on the system.
With the platform, we are very carefully nonpartisan. We do not take any stances on issues. We want it to work equally well for all perspectives. This isn’t motivated in any way by trying to create specific political change. It’s about allowing people from all different perspectives to allow their voices to be heard.
The money from the OZY Genius Award is allowing us to live in D.C. this summer and work full time to build the initial version of the platform. We plan to launch this summer. I definitely have some weeks where I don’t sleep as much as I would like, but it’s been working out great so far.
I’m not even sure I’m going to go to medical school, but if I were going to go, I’d like to do sports medicine of some kind, probably orthopedics like my dad. I’d like to work with athletes.