Brian Williams started the beginning of this NBC Rock Center story as follows: “The beginning of this story sounds familiar to us all. A biracial man with an exotic name, raised by his single white mother and his maternal grandparents, who overcomes lean times in his life. He is accepted and attends an Ivy League school, later runs for public office and wins. Though this may sound like the story of President Barack Obama, it is not. This is the story of Mayor Svante Myrick of Ithaca, NY.”
Mayor Svante Myrick is 24, the youngest mayor ever in Ithaca. In an age of skepticism and doubt for all things political, how did this young man come to be mayor? The people of Ithaca will tell you it was his life story that inspired them. From a young age, Myrick experienced homelessness and poverty living with his mother and father. During this time, his father was battling a serious drug addiction that ended up tearing the family apart. Seeing the struggles Myrick and his siblings were enduring, his maternal grandparents stepped in to help, offering them a home in upstate New York. These generous grandparents worked alongside their daughter to provide her children the comfort and security necessary for them to succeed.
Growing up in a family that was just scraping by helped shaped Myrick’s political views. He counts food stamps and school lunch programs as two critical safety net programs that helped his family during tough times. “I know personally I would not be here were it not for these programs.” Myrick and his siblings all worked afterschool jobs to help pool money together to keep the family afloat.
When he was in high school, Myrick’s grandmother gave him a copy of Barack Obama’s book, Dreams from my Father. Being raised under similar circumstances, he saw himself in that story. But it was someone closer by who helped him to think about his future: his high school teacher, Jonathan Sherry. That teacher saw Myrick’s potential, and pushed his young student to strive for greatness. As a result, Myrick was accepted and graduated from Cornell University.
Today, Myrick sits in his office and faces the challenges and duties that every mayor must take on: a struggling economy, shrinking budget, and tough choices. At a time when government programs are being drastically cut, Myrick sees value in strengthening the safety net programs that worked for him and his family. “This is not the story of a self-made man. This is the story of a community that conspired together to raise a child.”
For more information on Mayor Svante Myrick, check out NBC’s Rock Center profile of this inspiring story.