Max Perrey, prounounced "pair-ay," (he's half French) is a third generation Mill Valley-ite who grew up above Boyle Park. He attended the Marin Waldorf School, and he currently studies at UC Santa Cruz, where he is planning to double major in politics and music. When Perrey's not organizing around pressing environmental issues or working for a local politician's campaign, you might find him jamming on a harpiscord, or perhaps running the , which he he's finished eight times.
Perrey plans to study abroad in Scotland next spring with a select group of 10 other students from the UC system. He will take classes in Scottish political history, do an extensive research paper and complete an internship with a member of Scottish parliament.
Perrey helped President Barack Obama get elected the first time around by going door to door in Nevada (a state that went blue) and by organizing for the UCSC Students for Obama group.
Mill Valley Patch: How did you first become active politically and why?
Max Perrey: In the fifth grade at the Marin Waldorf School, I started reading the newspaper and following current events. I read Hilary Clinton's autobiography that came out around 2003, and while reading it I didn't know most of the names and would ask my mom 'who is Colin Powell?' or 'what is the war in Bosnia?' or 'what happened in Rwanda?' and that really perked my interest.
In seventh grade, our teacher - we have one teacher for all eight years at Waldorf - asked us to take on a couple of environmental projects, maybe start a reusable cloth bag business. This is before the grocery stores were selling cloth bags. Although that was a cool idea, I liked the idea of researching solar technology for our eighth grade classroom even more. I ended up writing a 40-page proposal for solar tube technology, which is a combination of mirrors and skylights. It's like an actual light but uses no energy whatsoever. I sent it in and was disappointed when I heard it was not going to be installed. However, I started taking charge of the cloth bag business instead.
MVP: What was one thing you were involved in during your years at Tam High?
MP: The summer after freshman year, I learned that the school district had a plan to bulldoze the last seasonal wetlands in Southern Marin. They were near the . I had visited the wetlands as a kid with friends and remembered how special the place was. There was a frog pond and a saltwater marsh. I found that essentially the was planning to go forward with plans to dredge it and build a soccer field. I was outraged about this.
I organized two events, one was a funeral for the frog pond, and we had a little concert. It was fun organizing and meeting community members and environmentalists in Marin County. That was the first foray into grassroots organizing around a specific issue. I was on the KPFA evening news at age 16, it was a fun experience. It taught me that we came late to the project, but we educated the community, the Tiburon Ark newspaper covered our frog pond funeral.
You can influence the debate and push your ideas if you get to things early. We made a significant impact and we came late, we being me and my friends. The environmental community is aging, the leaders are in their 70s now and that's not a bad thing, they have a lot of wisdom but we need the next generation of folks to get involved if we're going to create a sustainable Marin.
MVP: What's has been your greatest success in terms of political organizing?
MP: I Got involved in "Stop the Spray," people in Santa Cruz were pissed and people in Monterey were pissed but people in the Bay Area didn't really know about it. Frank Egger, an environmental leader in Marin and former member of the Fairfax Town Council, got really involved. I got involved and organized my own meeting. That was a really positive experience. What was best was that we were successful, they didn't spray the Bay Area at all. We kept on it, were persistent, we had an awesome benefit concert in Sausalito, we had a protest walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, and a big rally in Crissy Field.
MVP: Why did you want to be a Democratic delegate, and why do you support your candidate of choice?
MP: In 2008, I got very involved in Students for Barack Obama. I went to Nevada for a couple of days with some fellow students from Tam. We heard Obama speak at a rally in Reno and went out precinct walking. That was right before the primary, we put door hangers all over Reno and were there for 48 hours straight and did a lot of things that were really positive. And Barack Obama won Nevada. I volunteered for the state party and helped out the Obama campaign, went to a number of events in the Bay Area, and had phone banks for Obama every Wednesday night. That's what I did in 2008 with the Obama campaign.
Since then I've continued to be involved in both local, state and national democratic politics. I ran for a delegate position for the state party in 2011 and won, it will be up in January. It's a two-year position.
To me, being able to go to a national convention to represent our congressional district and the progressive wing of our party is really an honor. I know how big the district is, it goes to from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. I just don't know that many people in the non-Marin counties, so it was kind of amazing to be able to win.
MVP: What do you plan to do during the convention, what speakers are you most looking forward to?
MP: I'm really looking forward to meeting people from other states and hearing about what they're doing and hearing about what they're passionate about. I haven't networked with people from other states in the past. It's been such a pleasure to work with and organize with people from Marin and Mill Valley on local issues, but to be able to go somewhere else and make connections around shared values is really something that I'm looking forward to.
I'm excited to hear from the other speakers beyond the president. I remember that in 2004 I was on vacation at the beach and would rush inside to watch the speeches from the Democratic National Convention. Eight years later to be going to the national convention is like a dream come true.
MVP: What do you think of the Democratic campaign thus far?
MP: I think the Democrats are going to do well. I think Obama's chances are strong and I think it's going to come down to young people. Young people were the margin of victory in 2008. If young people had not turned out to vote, John McCain would be president, that's just the facts.
I think that with the economy, a lot of young people may be disillusioned and that's our challenge. We need to say: Yes the economy still has a way to go, yes college costs are going up but we've made progress in the last four years. The work is not over. The Republican's philosophy has become so extreme that there really are a number of stark differences on a number of issues that really matter.
Every single vote counts, it's going to come down to literally every single vote. The president won with something like 52 percent. The election is going to be close. I think that when people hear the message and are aware of the issues, they do vote Democratic.
MVP: What would you ideally like to do when you graduate?
MP: I've been very involved in politics for quite some time. I love the political process as a venue, and I think it's the best venue for advocating for issues you believe in, but I'm not sure how I'll be involved after I graduate.
I think that whatever I do, I'll make sure that I remain a well-balanced person, I think people that are well balanced are the happiest people. I've played the harpsichord since I was 11. I run, was active in theater at Tam, I teach tennis at Boyle Park, and continue to be involved in environmental issues. Then of course I'm into politics.
Right now I'm working for . That's been really cool because he's been such a leader on so many issues that I care about. Hopefully I can stay involved in Marin, statewide, and national politics, but whatever I do, I think the key to happiness is not giving up any one passion because you think you have to focus on one thing.
I definitely want to go to graduate school, but not sure for what. Maybe law school, maybe a master's in public policy, maybe an MBA, I would even consider culinary school. I love to cook and eat and there's a lot of politics around food.
I don't know what that leads to, but that's something I could be into. My dad lives in France, I'm half French and have dual citizenship, so I'd like to travel there at some point. Having said that, I can't imagine too many places that are better than Marin.
Stay tuned for May Perrey's updates from the 2012 Democratic National Convention for Patch.
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