Courtesy of Twitter
By Eva Lynch
The youngest legislator in the country, Ryan Fecteau, got his start in politics as the first openly gay speaker for the Student Government General Assembly at Catholic University, a position equilivilant to President of SGA now. He returned to campus on Wednesday night to share his unique political perspective with students.
In addition to his participation in student government at CUA, Fecteau pursued a degree in Political Science and Theological and Religious Studies and served as the president of CUA’s unrecognized LGBTQ+ advocacy group, CUAllies. He was instrumental in the push for official recognition of the organization by the university, though these efforts ultimately failed. Now in his public position, he continues to advocate for CUAllies and LGBTQ+ rights in general.
Currently, Fecteau is serving his third term as the Assistant Majority Leader in the Maine state legislation. The garden and home decor retail store which he owns and runs serves as his day job.
Fecteau began his presentation by recognizing the success of CUAllies as well as acknowledging Transgender Day of Remembrance, on which his presentation fell. He then explained the roots of his democratic orientation: his family, including his parents who worked hard in textile mills and wore the smell of their work home, and his childhood, during which his family was food insecure and he and his sister were saved by public education, according to Fecteau.
“We were one of those so-called welfare families,” Fecteau said. “We lived in low-income housing, we had food on the table entirely because of [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], but there was never enough, and it was certainly not nutritious. We were food insecure.”
He also shared that his elected Democratic leaders’ approach to his family’s situation—without abandoning them and staying steadfast in their belief that his family would make it to the middle class—largely influenced his political orientation as well.
“Democrats believe in a social contract that uplifts every boat, regardless of who’s in it,” Fecteau said. “That’s why I’m a Democrat.”
Then he launched a discussion about his own political career, which began with his campaign for representative in the Maine House of Representatives in 2013, while he was still a student at CUA and was just 20 years old. He beat his Republican opponent, who was endorsed by the city mayor and the incumbent representative, by going home every weekend possible in any way possible, to bear the cold weather and knock on doors. If he was not able to make it home, he drafted his friends to help him make calls to constituents in Maine. Fecteau also announced that next year, he will be vying for the Speaker of the House in Maine, and if he attains this position, he will be the youngest speaker in the country.
Then, he transitioned to share his public policy, which primarily focuses on the dominant senior population in Maine, public education reform, and making Maine a more attractive place for young people to live and raise a family.
Fecteau explained his efforts to make Maine more attractive to tourists and boost the state’s economy by embracing the way young generations work to create coworking centers around the state. According to Fecteau, these centers help the tourism business in Maine by allowing tourists to extend these vacations in light of the opportunity to work remotely.
Finally, Fecteau called for more representation of the LGBTQ+ community in legislation, as well as for an embracement of the relationship between faith and politics, though it may seem dissonant.
“I am still the youngest openly gay legislator in the country, but I am getting old. This is a distinction I do not want anymore.” He continued to touch on connecting faith and politics, saying, “We should not feel uncomfortable wearing our faith and our political party on our sleeve. We should not shy away from explaining how our faith informs our politics and how our politics informs our faith. Our faith can be the path to repairing our fractured republic.”
After Fecteau’s prepared presentation, the floor opened up to student questions.
One student asked about Fecteau’s ideas for alleviating child hunger in his state. He answered that he will continue to focus on access to better quality food, a concept reflected in a bill recently passed in Maine to allow food banks to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and disperse them to food pantries. Fecteau also shared that Maine legislature recently reversed a bill banning milk companies to donate excess milk to food banks.
Prompted by another student question about his political inspiration, Fecteau said, “I’m a Catholic Democrat because John F. Kennedy was a Catholic Democrat.”
Finally, Fecteau left his audience with this parting thought: “Love always wins in the end, and if it doesn’t, it isn’t the end.”