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John Legittino

Age

29

Location

University of Southern California, BA Print Journalism

Twitter

@johnlegittino

BIO

John Legittino is a founding partner at Harbinger Outreach, where he manages large-scale event production and creative direction/strategy for the firm’s highest profile clients and events. A life-long entrepreneur, Legittino has founded three companies since graduating from USC in 2009.

After working on a Republican gubernatorial and senate race in California in 2010, his first company — The Legittino Group — was hired by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to manage production during the primary election. By 2012, Legittino had been put in charge of all event production nationally for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. In 2013, Legittino launched Harbinger Outreach with the mission to help candidates and campaigns excel in front of the camera and better connect with voters across all media platforms.

Why is it important that at this particular point in time, right-of-center youth become involved publicly, whether in politics, media, their communities, or in other capacities?

The conservative movement is undergoing a remarkable transformation, and young people engaged in the process have the chance to direct and shape its future. My conservative colleagues in presidential politics generally aren’t taking strong positions on social issues anymore. I believe those positions have caused hundreds of lost opportunities for conservatives to be elected to offices where they could be fighting to keep government small, reduce spending, and protect the freedoms our Constitution prescribes.

At the risk of sounding too “inside-the-beltway,” I’ve been really surprised by the number of young people I meet while traveling the country who tell me they don’t care at all about politics, they don’t “follow that stuff,” and they think all elected officials are self-aggrandizing and dishonest. If you drill down, a huge percentage find they agree with the premise of the conservative movement, but don’t want to engage because of a negative perception that doesn’t truly represent the reality of the movement. Our society is strongest when people engage in the process and care about who they elect, and it’s our responsibility to get out there, get involved, and share the evolution of the conservative movement with Americans who may not even know they identify with the core issues and beliefs.

What must elected officials and others in positions of leadership do to make a right-of-center message resonate with the Millennial generation?

I love hosting town halls for candidates at companies like Google and Snapchat… you just see the bells go off as they realize that it’s not just about the Nightly News anymore, but that our generation connects in a much more intimate, honest, and informal ways. Authenticity is essential, after growing up in the wake of scandals, lies, and the feeling that our voices don’t matter.

Mitt Romney would have been an incredible president, perhaps one of the best ever, but it wasn’t until Americans saw him behind the scenes in the Netflix documentary, trying to iron his sleeves without taking his shirt off, that many realized the mistake they made. Every candidate for president should learn from the reaction America had to that documentary. Be real. Both sides of the aisle would benefit greatly from having more leaders who connect emotionally with our generation.

It’s not just a conservative thing. Elected officials need to remember that voters most often select the leader they most identify with. They don’t go into the voting booth with a checklist of issues, so much as they look to elect someone who understands them. Other than Barack Obama, our generation has not had a leader or a movement that has truly connected and resonated with us on an emotional level, and the conservative movement is ready to rally behind that type of individual.

Where would you like to see the conservative movement in 10 years — and how can it get there?

A decade from now, I’d like to see a cooler, hipper conservative movement that can be embraced by anyone without risk of negative publicity. In 2012, Kid Rock was one of the only mainstream artists who would agree to come out and support the Romney campaign publicly and play at our rallies. As I called through agents, managers and artists, I expected to find a very liberal group per the rumors you always hear about Hollywood. What I found instead were dozens of major celebrities, musicians, and actors who identified as conservatives and really supported the campaign, but were worried it would be bad for business to say so publically. It wasn’t cool to be a conservative, and in a world where image drives the day, artists couldn’t risk seeming out of touch with their mainstream audiences.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign was opening its rallies with Jay-Z, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, and Katy Perry. They successfully made it feel cool to be a Democrat. This road block is caused by general perception and image, not by the actual issues or ideologies. Young Americans take many of their cues from celebrities and pop culture icons, and by the time they’re 18 and ready to vote, they’re far more likely to have followed and admired a celebrity who supports left-of-center causes and movements. People will always be divided based on their beliefs on the issues, but I’d like to see a movement where those who do identify with conservative issues can promote that position publicly, without fear of rebuke.

 

Thirty Under Thirty 2015

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