Campaign links: David Levitt (D-CA-Senate)
David Alex Levitt
David Levitt Senatorial Candidate California
Biography of David Levitt from Levitt 2012 Campaign
David Levitt was born in New York City like his parents. His parents had good, secure jobs, partly because they were members of strong unions: she the New York City teacher’s union, and he the taxi owner’s union.
David’s mother Milroy, whose family came from the West Indies, was in the first class of graduates at New York City’s prestigious Hunter College that had black women in it. She earned degrees in math and chemistry, but was also a gifted actress, appearing on Broadway in “Green Pastures” before becoming an algebra teacher at JHS 189 and soon being promoted to dean.
David’s father Daniel Levitt invested in a New York City taxi medallion and drove the yellow Checker cab. The taxi medallion turned out to be an amazing investment whose value appreciated faster than most homes. It was mobile real estate — and after all, real estate value is about location — location — location. When Danny wasn’t using it, friends like actor Godfrey Cambridge would earn extra money driving it.
You could say David Levitt has been a Marriage Equality activist since he was a twinkle in their eyes. After all, his parents’ interracial marriage was illegal in 28 states when the Levitts married in the 1950’s. In those days, the very presence of a mixed couple or child was a political statement. The Levitts were never shy about values like equality, integration and peace.
With two living wage incomes — a rarity in the 50’s and 60’s — the Levitts became middle class. They moved to the suburbs — although of course, first they had to integrate Roslyn Heights, Long Island. There was some inevitable bigotry and fear, but the Levitts always had support in the neighborhood, especially from jewish families who believed in equality and knew outsiders have to stand up for each other.
In those days, neighbors, teachers, and students could often be found on picket lines protesting the Vietnam war, where 3 million civilians and over 50,000 American soldiers died fighting in a country that never even threatened us. They listened to veterans whose lives had been stolen for no good reason, but who survived to become peace activists too. David has been an activist and veterans’ advocate ever since.
Thanks largely to great New York City public schools like the Bronx High School of Science — properly valued and funded in the Sputnik era — David enrolled at Yale through a combination of work study, student loan and scholarship. His employment included a teaching assistantship at Yale’s most popular computing course, and creating new equipment and developing software for Yale research scientists.
While attending Yale, Levitt joined volunteers at the relatively new organization ACORN helping disenfranchised members of the local New Haven community with voter registration and other activities.
Levitt graduated Yale at 20 and obtained Masters and Doctoral degrees from MIT in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.
He joined the founding team of the MIT Media Lab as a research scientist and lecturer, creating the first Macintosh software development lab at MIT – leading projects and inspiring students who would become a new generation of user-friendly software developers.
Levitt moved to California’s Silicon Valley and continued leading teams and innovating – as a research scientist, virtual reality developer, Director of Engineering and engineering VP. As a technology CEO and entrepreneur, Levitt and his teams have create award-winning, innovative and hit software on the Macintosh, Palm OS and iPhone/iPad platforms.
At the same time, Levitt has been a constant activist and contributor to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center, to individual veterans resisting deployment to the Middle East, and to numerous independent media publications including Democracy Now! and his local KCRB public television and radio affiliate.
Levitt, Occupy and Citizen Candidacy
In 2011, with the country reeling from a predicted economic crash and multiple costly, unwinnable Vietnam-like wars including a failed Drug War, Levitt helped found an organization aimed at making the dysfunctional US government more representative and democratic, less wasteful and corrupt. Founders Jonathan Greenberg, Liz Abzug and Levitt called it Be Your Government.
Every new poll showed how clearly corrupt Americans felt their government had become. Increasingly, polls showed most people thought the average citizen would do a better job. The real problem wasn’t any particular politician or party. It was the existence and continuation of a political class, separate from the people, focussed on campaigning rather than governing, and fueled by lobbyists and corporations rather than citizens or the public interest.
With so much money corrupting the process, was it even possible to challenge that system? Media technology offered part of the answer. For decades, campaigns and their funding had become focussed around expensive television ads. But by 2006, YouTube had proven video could be distributed nationwide without costing authors a dime – if the audience is receptive and the message is right.
In the summer of 2011, Levitt began asking Californians what they thought of Senator Feinstein and her re-election. Like him, most had voted for her in the 1990s, but over 20 years she had become the poster child for wasteful wars and disregard for Constitutional rights. If she was elected again, she would serve until she was 85. Talking with hundreds of people, Levitt was startled to be unable to meet a single Feinstein advocate until he received an email encouraging him to support her — from the office of Senator Barbara Boxer. Everyone he told about Be Your Government was encouraging him to run for the Senate seat. Skeptics asked not “Why?”, but “How do you win?” A sitting U.S. Senator whispered, “Don’t tell Dianne I’m endorsing you – I have to work with her.”
Technology like online video and social networks aren’t enough by themselves to support the kind of citizen candidate movement Be Your Government envisioned. There also had to be a raising of consciousness — about getting money out of politics, about the tiny percentage of Americans actually represented and served by our political class.
Then in the fall, Occupy happened. Suddenly “money out of politics” and “representing just the 1%” were phrases everyone knew and understood, nationwide. Levitt, Greenberg and Abzug — all native New Yorkers — joined Occupy Wall Street in New York City with their message. In a chaotic group that had largely given up on electoral politics, that message was widely understood and warmly received.
In early 2012, Levitt declared his candidacy to represent California in the U.S. Senate in the 2012 election.
He has enthusiastically embraced the Rebuild the American Dream movement, and his campaign has adopted the Contract for the American Dream platform.