Making An Impact As A Senior In High School

Not many high school students become national news, but that is just what happened in the past few weeks for Ethan Lynne.


Courtesy of Ethan Lynne

Ethan Lynne, who will graduate high school this June, pictured alongside First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

Saturday, Feburary 5, Ethan Lynne, a politically involved Virginian HS senior at Patrick Henry High School, retweeted a report stating that Kelly Fanto Deetz, Executive Historian of the Governor’s Mansion who shares stories of the enslaved, resigned from her position. That night, the account “Team Youngkin” published a photo of Lynne with Ralph Northam, former governor of Virginia, alongside an image of Northam’s 1984 med-school yearbook, where he was captured in blackface. Captioned “Here’s an image of Ethan with a man that had a Blackface/KKK photo in his yearbook,” this tweet attacked not only an involved resident of Virginia, but a minor. The tweet was later taken down Sunday morning, and Youngkin released a statement Monday morning regarding the Twitter spat. 

Lynne has been involved with politics since he was 13 years old, participating in the Virginia Government PAGE program, as well as being a Virginia Senate Intern and member of Virginia Teen Democrats. Motivated to bring awareness and change in America, Lynne is outspoken on Twitter, sharing information with his audience of 40.4 thousand followers. We talked with him Thursday night and here are his answers regarding the attack on Saturday and his political involvement. 

Describe to me how you became interested in politics and began to advocate?

“I [have] grown up with parents that at least made sure I knew what the news was. They would put on Obama’s speeches and stuff. Then when I was about 10, a local lady, [Faye Prichard], that I knew, decided that she was going to be running the county board of supervisors. I remember getting [to volunteer on the] campaign, phone calling once or twice a week, doing some campaigning. We ended up flipping a 30 year [Republican] held seat to blue, and she’s still serving today, she’s like my biggest mentor. From there, I became the State Senate page, which is [in Richmond], I think, actually, for the lieutenant governor in 2018. That really opened my eyes to the world of state politics, and then I got an internship unpaid for the Democratic Party of Virginia in the summer of 2019. I have just worked up through different campaigns from there.”

When you saw the current governor’s campaign account attacking you, how did you feel?

“That night, I was just sitting on my couch. And then I was like, ‘Oh my god, Governor Youngkin’s campaign account responded to this with a photo of me and Northam alluding to racism.’ So I was like, okay, and then just kind of sat and looked at that for a second. I quote tweeted it [saying], ‘Y’all are attacking high schoolers now?’ I was just in a state of confusion. What I was seeing, and then from there, just everything exploded. I was in this complete state of shock and just anger in what happened.”

This is the tweet and response from Team Youngkin that put Ethan Lynne in a national spotlight. (Twitter)

Where do you expect this photo had been found?

“I tweeted it. But the thing is actually, I think you might actually be the first to get to know, is that  they would have had to actually dig to find it. Because I did not say Northam [within my post], I just said ‘The best sitting governor in Virginia history.’ So they invested some time in researching me. A lot of people have suggested maybe they had that waiting to go. I can’t comment on that, but I wouldn’t put it past them.”

Since the attack on Saturday, you have received support from leaders and people not only in Virginia but across the nation. How does this support make you feel?

“I am incredibly grateful for it. And I mean, that support made me proud to be a Virginian. There are still good people elected that will fight for what’s right.”

What would you say to Younkin after this attack occurred?

“I’m going to say, you just say you need to own up to what happened, [and] you need to live up to what you said in your inauguration speech that you’re going to bring us together. And that what you said during the campaign, that you’re going to be different than Trump. And that you need to make sure you have the best people in control to lead Virginia. I mean, I think that [what you said in your campaign] contradicts everything. You can’t preach about reducing divisiveness and toxicity in politics, and then go and cyberbully a minor. I think that he needs to condemn what happened. I think he owes me and my family an apology, which I honestly don’t think is going to come now, but that’s on his legacy.” 

How do you feel about the political divisions in Virginia?

“I mean, [the divisions are at] an all-time high. I mean, we literally have a divided government. I am appreciative as I do think that there are a lot of good legislators on both sides, working on comprehensive bills. But I think that we’re going to be stuck with this kind of division for at least through 2022 with just how nationalized everything is now but we can do our best to reduce and minimize it, though.”

Governor Youngkin’s tweet addressing his campaign account attacking Ethan Lynne on Twitter. (twitter)

How are you seen in your high school by your peers for your high activity in politics?

“I’ve [been] known as the political kid by a lot of them, and most of them are extremely proud. And they’ve been very good friends, just being very supportive of me. I think almost all of my friends watched my interview on CNN on Monday. I just was incredibly proud that the vast majority of them were very supportive.”

As a 2022 HS Senior, what are your plans for after high school?

“I would love to go to a four-year university. My number one right now is George Washington, but I also love places like the University of Virginia, American, George Mason, VCU, Virginia Tech, any of those places would be absolutely amazing. I want to get a degree in political science and work on campaigns and maybe one day run for office myself.”

Is there anything else we should know?

“I will not be deterred. I’ll continue to be a voice for students through the future.”