This Senior Fought for Gun Violence Prevention Since He Was 11. Now, He’s Eying His Future. | #schoolsaftey

How It Started

Mittleman remembers Dec. 14, 2012, well. He was in sixth grade and crouched under his desk at a school a mile away from Sandy Hook Elementary School. The school was on lockdown. At first, Mittleman and his classmates thought it was a normal drill. After three hours, they realized something was wrong.

“In that moment, I was forced to confront the reality that I might die in my first period classroom,” he said. “That day sticks with me forever.”

Later, when his parents picked him up, he learned their family friend’s son had been among the 25 children and adults killed that day at Sandy Hook. In the days following, he learned of more victims he knew.  

Jackson Mittleman (C'23) spoke at the March for Our Lives rally as a junior in high school.
Jackson Mittleman (C’23) spoke at the 2018 March for Our Lives rally as a junior in high school.

Mittleman quickly got involved in a family friend’s advocacy group, the Newtown Action Alliance. He began traveling to DC for congressional town halls, knocking on U.S. representatives’ doors and helping organize lobbying events and community rallies. In 2018, as a junior in high school, he spoke in front of nearly a million people at the March for Our Lives rally in DC. For Mittleman, after years of hard work, the moment felt like a silver lining of sorts.

“Something bad happened, but you got to make something good out of it, hopefully,” he said. “I remember thinking, this is something I can see myself continuing with for my life.”

The more time he spent in DC, the more he felt drawn to the city and to the broader world of politics.

“I started realizing that gun violence was the issue that got me involved, but politics and legislative advocacy was what I was really interested in,” he said.

He wanted to go to Georgetown, a place, he said, that felt meant for him.

The Hilltop Arena

Mittleman transferred to Georgetown from American University in spring 2021, where he majored in government. He found his classes contextualized the work he had been doing since he was 11, deepening his understanding of social movements, government and politics. The coursework also complemented new internships he found while at Georgetown.

Through a professor, the head of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, and then an alumnus, Mittleman applied for a position at the Democratic National Committee, headquartered in downtown DC. He began working as a political intern there in summer 2022, writing memos on campaign issues. He was hooked by what he saw behind the curtain.

Jackson Mittleman (C'23) stands in front of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in downtown DC.
Over the summer of 2022, Jackson Mittleman (C’23) worked as a political intern at the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC.

“When I was in eighth grade lobbying on Capitol Hill, I was incredibly naive. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just pass this bill,” he said. “It’s all very calculated, and I’ve learned how to make those calculations myself instead of observing and reading about them. And I’ve gotten to be in rooms where those calculations are happening.”

Mittleman said the experience taught him how to understand interests on both sides of the aisle, opening up a world of strategy and “a whole other side of politics that I knew existed but had never experienced for myself.”

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said. “It has been so rewarding. And I would not have had this experience without Georgetown.”

As he nears leaving the Hilltop, Mittleman hopes to continue a career in politics and strategy. But he hasn’t forgotten what brought him to DC in the first place.

Continuing the Fight in DC

Throughout his years at Georgetown, Mittleman continued to lobby on Capitol Hill and advocate for gun violence prevention. As the federal affairs manager for the Newtown Action Alliance, he’d often come back to his dorm after class, change into a suit and ride the bus downtown to meet with members of Congress.

In the summer of 2022, he saw his hard work bear fruit. He and members of the Newtown Action Alliance worked with Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on a bipartisan gun violence prevention bill, and on June 25, 2022, they were invited to the White House for the signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

Jackson Mittleman (C'23), far right, poses for a selfie with President Biden after the signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in summer 2022.
Jackson Mittleman (C’23), upper right, poses for a selfie with President Biden after the signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in summer 2022.

“To watch the first federal gun violence prevention legislation be signed into law 10 years after Sandy Hook and 30 years since the last bill was passed, it was a full circle moment,” Mittleman said. “To finally see some steps in the right direction was a great thing, and as a political nerd, I was excited to be at the White House on the lawn.”

In the spring of his senior year, Mittleman took a class about the 1963 March on Washington, which helped him better understand the history and hard, dedicated work of social movements, he said. The class inspired him to organize the rally for a federal assault weapons ban on behalf of the Newtown Action Alliance, five years after he last spoke on the National Mall at the March on Washington in 2018. After seeing how others have fought for social movements throughout history, Mittleman wanted to take the rally into his own hands, he said, in a city that has constantly unlocked new opportunities.

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