"You're supposed to debate politics, not personality, not character."
– Tarik Woods
I met Tarik Woods a couple weeks into my first semester at UNC — I was trying to recruit him for Fresh U. He'd shown interest in writing for the UNC chapter but his ties with North Carolina Senate interfered with his ability to write for us. Nonetheless, Tarik and I met at one of the dining halls and spent our dinner talking about our futures, mine in writing and child development and his in politics.
From my first conversation with Tarik it was easy to see his passion and dedication. He is a born politician, but not the distant and stuffy type people are used to. Armed with intelligence, a genuine concern for people and a voice akin to Obama's, Woods easily captures the attention of others. It's rare that you'll go somewhere with him and not see him wave to countless students and refer to them by name. Even during my interview with him for this article, Tarik greeted multiple people and complimented a man's tie. When the man asked what he could do for him, Tarik simply said "tell me where you got that tie."
Tarik's love of politics is based on a love for people. He believes the negative connotation associated with the word "politician" stems from "politics [once] being about people to putting politics before people," which is precisely the reason he no longer works closely with the North Carolina General Assembly.
"It wasn’t a partisan thing," Woods says. "There are many intelligent and passionate people working with [the NCGA] but it has become so radically conservative that it’s hard to get through to them." He is currently working on organizing groups that will help the voices of constituents be heard.
In addition to once working with the North Carolina Senate, Tarik is UNC's Student Congress Representative for District 4, has been involved with Young Politicians of America, Junior Ambassadors and was the student body president of both his middle and high schools, but he hasn't always been involved in politics.
"I wanted to be a pastor until I was about 10. Then I got into local politics when I met Susan Klutz, who was the mayor of Salisbury, NC at the time." From there, Tarik started learning more about local history and US history and his interest in politics grew.
Over the years Tarik has been involved in lobbying, writing legislation, allocating funds, finding resources for college students as well as those that don't attend college and has even had lunch with the 44th President of the United States four times. Woods lit up as he told me "[meeting Obama] is everything you’d think it would be. He’s funny and has a firm handshake and is very intelligent.”
When I asked Tarik if he wants to be president one day, he quickly said "yes" and then chuckled. "The President is more than a powerful political person. They should be someone that can connect to the people and who has experienced the strife of fellow Americans. They should be a symbol of hope that is able to bring all types of people together." It's clear that he, and many other people, believe he'll be a great fit for the job.
Before becoming president though, Tarik wants to sign a contract with the U.S. Navy and to be an attorney for them for at least four years. He said, "I have this feeling of responsibility and duty to the country that has given me so much." He also mentioned potentially wanting to become federal prosecutor before running for office.
Tarik is still primarily a student but that doesn't stop him for speaking up for what he believes in. Friends of his on Facebook regularly see short, factual posts about current events on which he's willing to debate. He rather people get the point of what he's saying than get caught up in a bunch of fancy words.
I asked him how he deals with the seemingly inevitable backlash that comes with sharing political opinions and he told me "I try to stay impersonal even though I’m a very personal person. You’re supposed to debate politics, not personality, not character."
As for his thoughts on the Trump administration, Tarik doesn't stand behind the President's executive orders but said "I’m firm in my belief that he was elected under the system every other president has been elected by and even if he doesn’t have the majority vote, we gave him the power to govern us. That being said, he has neglected the needs of the people that elected him and I think that should be immediately amended." He ended by saying, "I will continue to wish for his success in office because I am an American but I think he can do a lot better.”
I'd like to conclude by saying I'm not alone in thinking Tarik Woods is precisely the type of person we need in office. He is a very passionate and compassionate person that never shies away from difficult topics or insults others when things don't go his way. He truly listens to people and does his very best to represent them rather than push a personal agenda. Tarik is sure to come into the public spotlight later in life and you'd be wise to listen to him. For the record, he has my vote.
Lead Image Credit: Ryan Herron