Follow the Leader

Grant Jirka
June 25, 2013

Hi everyone! I want to share with you all a great documentary that I had the opportunity to screen.

Follow the Leader is a documentary about the political journey of three ambitious and politically active high school students that are transitioning into college. They start with similar ideals and the dream of becoming a U.S. President, but as they encounter new life experiences, they begin to question their ideals and change their beliefs.

Follow the Leader captures the real life adversities and challenges that face youth every day and provides an inside look at how major events such as 9/11 and the 2008 election have impacted the lives of millennials.

I had the opportunity to interview the director of this documentary, Jonathan Goodman Levitt. Here are some snippets and things I learned from our conversation:

Grant Jirka: What was your motivation for making this documentary?

Levitt lived in England for a decade teaching university students various subjects. He returned to the United States after the events of September 11, 2001 to teach. When he returned, he noticed that  teen political ideologies had shifted. Curious, Levitt wanted to understand how teenagers form their political mindsets as they grow into young adults. 

GJ: What did you learned from the three young men you followed around in this documentary?

Levitt said his experience with the three young political hopefuls made very clear to him how peoples’ political beliefs are heavily shaped by their family, community and social environments and by their experiences like divorced parents and new relationships with religion.

These environments and experiences changed and tested the films protagonists and challenged their beliefs, which is an experience echoed in the lives of political leaders everywhere. "Everyone’s views or attitudes come from a valid place,” Levitt said.

Understanding what experiences and knowledge form others people's opinions --even if you disagree with them -- was one of Levitt's main goals for this documentary. By showing how opinions can form, strengthen and change, Levitt hopes decrease political polarization and humanize policymakers and political leaders on all sides.

Levitt also experienced a very positive lesson. “I learned that there is hope for America because young people are involved in politics,” he said.

With an unusual lens on the making of a politician and the emphasis that young people can -- and should -- have a place in creating, informing and supporting political endeavors and decisions, this film is a must-see for political enthusiasts and my fellow young peers who are ready and willing to shape political futures.

Follow the Leader is will be released on June 25, 2013 on iTunes and aired on PBS/World Channel this Sunday, June 30. Check your local listings.

Grant Jirka is a first-year biomedical engineering, pre-med student at Duke University. He joined the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council in April 2012 and has been involved in other various state and national youth councils since he was a freshman in high school. He is currently the Director of New Media for the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council.

This blog is part of the youth-curated Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council blog, in partnership with SparkAction.