Jake Drake stands in front of Union fountain.
Student body president Jake Drake stands in front of Union fountain. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Today

There are a plethora of definitions for democracy. Jake Drake, the student body president of the University of Nebraska, reflected on democracy and his own experiences throughout his college career.

“Through my role as president, I’ve learned, not everyone agrees with what I say all the time,” he said. “And I always remind myself, that’s not a reflection of me doing a bad job. I always remind myself, that’s democracy.”

Drake said UNL students have the chance to be independent while using their voices. 

“Everyone on campus is listening,” he said. “Everyone cares about what students have to say. This campus and world is their oyster.”

Students have the power to make decisions and become an advocate for issues that are important to them, Drake said. For most students on campus, college is their first chance to become advocates for themselves, and it can be a big first step toward independence.

 “On a bigger scale, especially at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, like, we’re the oldest, we’re the largest,” he said.“We’re the biggest. We’re the best in Nebraska. And so students really get to use their voices and engage in the democratic process.”

Originally from Murray, a town of 400 people just south of Omaha, Drake is president of ASUN at UNL, where more than 26,000 students attend school. He now governs 65 times the population of people in the town of Murray. 

“I’m from a small town in Nebraska. Me becoming the president of the student body of this university was never on my radar and the amount of impact that I was able to have just because I found that I wanted to do it. I found that I was able to do it effectively,” Drake said.

One of Drake’s favorite contributions to democracy was the 9/11 memorial that took place on East Campus on Sept. 8. Going to the memorial always makes him emotional.  Most students on campus didn’t experience 9/11, but it has shaped the world we live in, and we know.

“It just reminds me of the meaning of democracy in our country. And it’s something we do just to do, to remember how it’s been impactful for people personally, but it’s also the act of doing it, and the symbolism of it all matters. And I have not known a world different than that after 9/11,” Drake said.

headshot 200x300 - ASUN president speaks on importance of democracy
alt same - ASUN president speaks on importance of democracy Photo courtesy of Reegan Stocker

Over the summer, Drake worked as a page for the state legislature where senators called on him to get coffee or run papers to different floors. He said he was able to witness everything from a perspective few Nebraskans get to see.

He said he witnessed both political parties finding common ground and working together, part of why he loved working there so much. Finding common ground is something Drake values and helped him discover the leader he wants to be.

“It’s very important to be steadfast in your beliefs and be ready to defend them. Everyone on that floor has some of the most intense voices in the state legislature, but they’re not always the most effective legislatively because you have to be willing to work with people across the aisle.”

As the first openly gay ASUN President, Drake said he feels empowered but doesn’t want it to define him. He hopes he can inspire people to be themselves on campus and have an enjoyable college experience.

“Not everyone has the same story, and I’m very fortunate in a lot of ways, but I don’t take that for granted,” he said. “I think holding this position is impactful for a lot of people because it’s something someone like me can do, and I have not been ridiculed because of it.”

After graduation this spring, Drake has plans to go into the Air Force for military intelligence. These plans aren’t set in stone, but he has decided it’s something he would be interested in pursuing. 

“I want to have a successful career in a field that I’m passionate about and make an impact on my community, state, and nation. It’s work that feels like it matters, and it’s thankless a lot of the time.”