Reilly Rastello '15 and the Future of American Politics
“If you focus just on media sources, it’s hard not to become cynical about the future of American politics,” Reilly Rastello ’15 acknowledges. “The red vs. blue/right vs. left narrative is the preferred story right now.”
Yet, Reilly is anything but cynical as he reflects on his own experiences in politics, from his time in student government at Kent Denver to congressional internships in college to the work he now does as a policy coordinator with the Millennial Action Project (MAP).
“Out in the world, there’s far more common ground than gets acknowledged in the news,” he says. “We just need to put in the work and the time and the energy to build relationships centered on trust and empathy and listening to one another. That’s what gives me hope for the future.”
Building on common ground is key in his current role with MAP, which aims to be the national nonpartisan organization for millennial leaders (generally defined as those between the ages of 24 and 45). They are particularly focused on issues like criminal justice reform, energy and the environment, and the democratic process. MAP is already active in over 30 bipartisan future caucuses at the state level, and they launched a congressional future caucus at the national level for federal senators and representatives under the age of 45.
As national demographics continue to shift, MAP also anticipates significant membership growth with each successive election cycle. According to Reilly, the 117th Congress includes 81 U.S. representatives under age 45, including 23 freshman members and 58 incumbents from both parties. At the state level, there are over 1,600 millennial representatives in all 50 state legislatures, out of more than 7,300 seats total.
“After a tumultuous two decades of politics, we need new voices and a new form of politics," Reilly says. "We shouldn’t aim for compromise that represents the lowest common denominator of different proposed solutions. Our goal at MAP is transformative impact that includes both parties.”
Reilly’s particular focus at MAP is on democracy and how it can be strengthened through policy moving forward. He researches issues like rank choice voting and independent redistricting commissions and works with elected and aspiring bipartisan leaders around the country to formulate these ideas into potential policies.
His passion for national politics first started when he was a summer intern for a gubernatorial campaign between his junior and senior years of high school at Kent Denver. “I liked that I could volunteer before I could even vote!” he recalls. “Canvassing and door-knocking were powerful experiences. Just talking to voters is where I’ve learned the most.”
Reilly hopes other Kent Denver students will consider getting engaged in local, state and national elections. “Politics touches every issue and every person in our country, whether we know it or not,” he notes. “We need to demand the best from our leaders and ensure our politics truly shows the best of us.”
Update: In August 2021, Reilly moved on from his role at MAP and is now attending the University of Michigan Law School. Reilly plans on studying Constitutional law and hopes to work in Washington D.C. or Denver after graduation. He will be back in Colorado in summer 2022 working as a summer law clerk in the Boulder District Attorney's Office.
What teacher or coach had the biggest impact on you during your time at Kent Denver?
"Richard Judd (pictured with Reilly below, right) had a genuine impact on me, not only as an advisor but as a mentor and someone who really listened to me, challenged me, and reminded me what's really important in high school. He's had a huge impact on the type of person I aim to be every day."
Catch up with your classmates, and submit your own good news!
Class of 2015 alum Reilly Rastello discusses a career in politics that started when he was a Kent Denver student.
Chris DeAntoni '88 reflects on his years of service as a Marine and on how he continues to serve his community as Kent Denver's Head Sports Performance Coach.