Make Your Voice Heard
From the 2022 Magazine
– BY ANDREW DAVIS
The newly approved Mount Tamalpais School Vision Statement reads, “We envision a world where education inspires action.” Taylor Griffin, MTS Class of 2006, embodies this vision. Now the Communications Manager for the Global Affairs team at Spotify, Taylor previously served as the Press Secretary for Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. From a young age and throughout her time in DC, Taylor has been deeply involved in activism and social justice movements. Reflecting on her life story, I am struck by the parallels between Taylor’s education and career and the four Habits of Excellence.
After graduation from MTS, Taylor attended The Branson School. There she continued to develop the foundational academic skills that she had learned at MTS. “MTS gave me a strong foundation that carried through to high school. I was prepared to be in those challenging classes, knowing sources, and knowing what to trust.” Though not quite as useful on a day-to-day basis, she can still sing the grammar songs that Mitch Bostian, a long-time MTS middle school English teacher, taught her. During high school, Taylor was also a singer, basketball player, and student government leader, three interests she discovered at MTS. She fondly recalls, “MTS allowed us to explore our passions. I attribute so many of my passions to those early years at Mount Tam.”
Taylor continued to sing and play club-level basketball at Georgetown where she studied Government with minors in French and African American Studies. Studying political science – or “nerding out” as she puts it – in our nation's capital provided incredible access and exposure that shapes Taylor’s career to this day.
Politics and communications are in Taylor’s blood. Her mom, Cindy Meyers, has worked with numerous political campaigns and media outlets. After being a Teaching Associate for Aim High here in the Bay Area, Taylor spent her next summers of college interning for Nancy Pelosi. Once she graduated from Georgetown, Taylor spent six years working for Pelosi moving from Press Assistant to Deputy Press Secretary to Press Secretary. She was both the youngest and first black Press Secretary for the Speaker of the House.
In this role, Taylor helped craft key messages for both Speaker and the Democratic Party during the later years of the Obama administration and throughout the Trump presidency. The Trump years were especially important and challenging for her “role in protecting and preserving democracy.” She recalls that “every day was a battle. It was a battle of words which largely fell to our communications team.” At age 25, Taylor would also regularly brief 200 plus senior staff members of the Democratic party leadership and recalls that she had little stage fright because of the comfort for being on stage that she developed at MTS.
Griffin explained that Pelosi looked to her because she was a young Black woman. “The Speaker understood that she did not have the knowledge, and she needed to hear from other voices. She cared less about what degree I had or whether I had worked on the Hill for 25 years, than the experience I had as a black activist. It was a remarkable moment for me.”
Taylor’s family has a deep history of activism. Her grandfather, close friends of the King family, first moved to California to open the NAACP’s Western Regional Office. It was during high school that Taylor first developed her own interest in social change. Taylor cultivated her “social justice muscle” as a member of Next Generation Scholars throughout high school. Taylor worked for the NAACP throughout the academic year in college and then became involved in the nascent movement for Black lives after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Speaking to her activism, Taylor shared that she “felt a higher calling to be out and making her voice heard in what would become a movement.”
Taylor’s social justice work was incredibly challenging both personally and professionally. “It was scary. I was receiving death threats.” In her work world, she had become “the ire to conservative blogs.” The Black Lives Matter movement was very new with lots of misunderstanding, even within her own political party. Though it added complications for Speaker Pelosi, Taylor continued to be active in the movement. “It is part of my blood, a non-negotiable to be out in the streets, forcing change.”
Collective Wellness and Belonging
After six years working for Speaker Pelosi and near the end of the Trump presidency, Taylor decided to leave Congress and work for Spotify in a new role focused on government affairs communication as well as trust and safety communication. Taylor had “checked off everything I wanted to do on my congressional bucket list.” She was also deeply exhausted from both the physical and emotional demands of the job. She had extraordinarily full weeks in Washington with work travel internationally or to multiple states every weekend. “The work was tiring and it tested me in so many different ways.”
Taylor has been using her time at Spotify to “reset, unwind, and focus on self-care” while still “aiding in the healing and job of the black community through music.” With a newfound semblance of work-life balance, Taylor has time to read, travel, and do the typical things a late twenty-year-old takes for granted.
Taylor is not finished with advocacy. When asked what impact she will make next, Taylor responded “I am still figuring it out. This is the first time that I am not directly making change.”
Into Action - Taylor’s Hopes for MTS
From her strong writing skills to her comfort on a stage to her love of singing, Taylor greatly appreciates so much of what MTS gave to her. She hopes that future MTS graduates will be similarly well prepared and passionate. Her hope is that MTS will move even more “into action.” Life in Marin “can be so insulating. It can be a challenge to access broader understandings, viewpoints, and lived experiences.” It is for this reason that Taylor hopes we lean even more into community engagement. “I would love for student engagement that goes beyond service hours and be meaningful rather than a chore.”
As we embark on our Into Action strategic plan, Taylor’s story and hopes for the future of MTS beautifully align with our future. Now that she has slightly more personal time, we also hope to have Taylor back to campus to speak to all of our students. I left our forty-five-minute conversation incredibly inspired and look forward to others sharing in that experience.