Congresswoman Val Demings visits FAU, talks to students about life experiences and U.S. Senate campaign

FAU’s Students Demand Action chapter organized the event, giving students the chance to speak to Demings.


Juan Fonseca

Val Demings talks to FAU students about her background and U.S Senate campaign outside the Live Oak Pavilion on Sept. 1, 2022.

Sofia De La Espriella, Contributing Writer

Congresswoman and Democratic nominee for Florida’s U.S. Senate Val Demings went to Florida Atlantic University to have a congressional conversation with students outside the Live Oak Pavilion Thursday evening. 

FAU’s Students Demand Action chapter organized the gathering. Vice President Alisa Gonzalez said the importance of the event was for students to have a real and direct conversation with Demings. 

“We are emphasizing that we are not endorsing her, as this is a policy we have to follow with our national organization,” Gonzalez said.

Demings recently won the Democratic primary with over 84% of the vote, as she takes on the incumbent Republican Senator Marco Rubio in the general election on Nov. 8. According to FiveThirtyEight, Rubio leads 48% to Demings’ 44.1% as of Sept. 1. 

The gathering started with Demings speaking about her life journey and the reasons why she is running to be a U.S. senator. 

She emphasized that despite the difficulties of growing up in a poor family and the barrier she constantly encountered as a Black woman, she knew she had a mission to accomplish.

“People told me I wasn’t the right color, the right gender, and didn’t have enough money. But my mom said, ‘you will not be defined by the world,’ and I’ve made a decision a long time ago to dedicate my life to public service,” Demings said. 

Demings also talked about how hard going to college was for her since nobody in her family had ever gone to college before. She spent 10 years paying off her student loan debt. 

“We have to work on these real serious issues and make decisions for the good of the people. These are real issues that affect real people,” Demings said. 

When Demings graduated from Florida State University, she started to work as a social worker with abused, abandoned, and neglected children. From there, she joined the Orlando Police Department because she felt disappointed about “how the system wasn’t quick enough to respond to those children in need.” 

At the department, she worked her way up through the ranks to become the 36th police chief and the first woman ever to serve the position. 

Demings served 27 years at every rank level in the department. She commanded the Special Operations division and handled the department’s highest-profile tasks.

Students were mostly interested in asking how she managed the barriers of running a political campaign as a Black woman. She responded by saying a member of a leadership convention in New York once told her that women had to stop asking for permission from everyone about their life decisions. 

Demings pointed out several times that regardless of how challenging it has always been for her as a Black woman, especially to raise the resources for her campaign, she is focused on her work and her goals. 

“It’s not so much about what people say about us; it’s how we let what people say affect us,” she said about those challenges. 

The conversation finished with Demings encouraging students by giving a speech on the need for young Americans to participate in politics to solve the country’s problems and how important she considers it is to stay focused and work hard to be successful.

“Because of my story, I’m on a mission to make sure that every man and every woman, every boy and every girl, regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, where they live or how much money they have, their sexual orientation or religion, they will all have the opportunity to succeed just like I had,” Demings concluded.

Sofia De La Espriella is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or message her on Instagram @sofidelaespriella