Allison Williams was the keynote speaker at this year’s MCON. According to their site, MCON gathers leaders, activists and social entrepreneurs from all over the country to better understand today’s social movements and how to turn interest into action. I arrived to the interview prepared to talk about Allison Williams the philanthropist and maybe Allison Williams the dog owner. I definitely wanted to find out how often she had been forced to do terrible Maryland things since her husband is from Timonium, MD. For example, does she now have to put Old Bay on everything? Has she ever been to Seacrets in Ocean City? And of course: crabs. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for all that but we did have enough time to remove some stigma from the word Millennial and hug it out in an elevator with too many mirrors.
Allison Williams: Hi!
Brightest Young Things: Hello, what a fantastic outfit.
AW: I really like your tattoos.
BYT: Do you really? Well that makes one of us still.
AW: I really do. You don’t like them anymore?
BYT: I’m 37 and I’m sure at some point my skin will move to odd places and they’ll just be weird sad shadows of themselves. I’m quoting myself on that. Weird Sad Shadows of Themselves will also be the title of my comedy album.
AW: Ha ha ha ha, that’s perfect.
BYT: Thanks for meeting with me. I know you’re probably exhausted because this is the last interview before your speech. Best for last? I believe I requested the best for last spot?
AW: You’re number three so if I’m exhausted I need to be in a different business.
BYT: I was really ready to pat myself on the back for possibly being one of 400 interviews! I appreciate it. You’re an angel from heaven.
AW: Thank you.
BYT: I was very surprised to learn you’re the keynote speaker at MCON this year, not because I don’t believe you’re a decent human being but because I only knew a little bit about your charity work which is why I love MCON. We were here last year. It’s huge. As far as all the CON’s go it’s a little more on the altruistic l side.
AW: I’m so excited. I’ve never been here before. This is definitely a little more my speed instead of say Comic-Con.
BYT: Oh, you mean you’re not going to be part of a Girls panel at next year’s Comic-Con?
AW: I feel like if I showed up they’d turn me away. They’d be like “This isn’t for you,” and I’d say “You’re right. This isn’t for me.”
BYT: When you were asked to do this, what was your initial reaction and what was your first thought in terms of what you might say?
AW: Well…I’m gonna take this (her blazer) off because I’m hot.
BYT: It’s me…it’s like looking at the sun. Am I right?
AW: It’s true. I’m very hot and bothered. So, I was talking to Derrick Feldmann already because I’ve been working on this documentary series for a long time about education in the U.S. Derrick was helping me come up with people who might fund it because I didn’t want like a gas company funding a documentary series about education.
BYT: God no, that goes against everything they believe in.
AW: Right. I was looking for brands or foundations and over the course of our first lunch together he was like “By the way, not for nothing, you were born in ’88 which makes you a Millennial.”
BYT: Wow, he used the M word?
AW: Yeah! It was immediately something that attracted me and I was like this is so weird that it’s not something I feel conflicted about doing. I jumped at it instantly. It occurred to me that the way Millennials are looked at and talked about and thought about started so mean and has become a little bit more respectful over time.
BYT: They’re hard workers and I think it’s the Baby Boomers who are, I’m going to go on record and say they are one of the worst generations in this country…
AW: You heard it here first.
BYT: They are the ones that make the most disparaging remarks and I don’t know if it’s a little bit of envy or jealousy.
AW: I don’t know what it is either. I think it’s a little bit of “kids these days,” which is always the case but I think the entitlement that people were seeing from Millennials is paying off right now when they proclaim, “We expect more from our government. We expect more from our leaders. We expect more from the world.” They’re not just emptily demanding those things they are also coming up with the solutions.
I feel so confident with Millennials being charged with fixing a lot of problems because we’re determined and stubborn. We don’t give up very easily and innovate very frequently. We make such good use of this global environment we’ve grown up in. I kind of have gone from feeling embarrassed about being a Millennial because of what people were telling me about them and I kind of thought, “Well, I don’t see those qualities in my friends but maybe there’s some kind of coven of Millennials behaving badly I don’t know of ha ha ha…”
BYT: The Millennial Craft.
AW: It occurred to me, no…we’re all being painted by the same brush and it’s wrong. I think conferences like MCON go a long way towards rewriting that narrative and reframing them as a generation that’s really gonna fix shit.
We are interrupted by someone telling Allison she has another quick meeting before her keynote speech at MCON.
BYT: I have to go? I feel as if I’m being sent to the Principal’s office.
AW: We can come back and chat a bit more.
BYT: Are you sure you have time? I don’t mind. I do have a book. Hey, I have two books.
AW: Good you can a book, or two books.
Allison finishes her other meeting and I’m told we’ll be able to talk while she’s on her way to the green room. I’m discussing how much I enjoy ironing because Allison is about to have her outfit steamed.
BYT: I can’t believe it. We’re doing a Sorkin walk-and-talk, right here in D.C.
AW: We sure are. I know it well.
BYT: We’re really West Winging it. I realize we’re pressed for time so I’ll make this quick, EDify, what you’re working on now…it seems obvious as to why this would come about, because the children are our future but why was this important to you?
AW: I’ve always been involved with this organization called Horizons National. I’m an ambassador but I went to the school and grew up in the town where it was founded. My mom is the chair of the board of directors. It matters a lot to me that it’s a summer enrichment program for low income kids which seeks to reduce the achievement gap and the summer slump which happens for a lot of kids from low income families. We run programs all over the country and for about 6 weeks every summer kids go back to the same location which is usually at a private school that hosts it. They learn, and explore. It’s a really amazing organization. Because of my work with Horizons I became increasingly focused on the lack of fair education opportunities for kids across the country kind of being the root of all evils that exist.
We have now stepped into the largest elevator I have ever been in.
BYT: Especially now more than ever.
AW: Exactly, so EDify seeks to identify people who are doing big things in their communities without the intervention of larger sources.
BYT: So you’re also finding people who are already doing these things for their community.
BYT: That’s really great. Shit, I need to do more with my life. Sorry I said that.
AW: What…shit? Have you seen Girls?
Then we hugged, as Girls tend to do.
Photos by Joy Asico for MCON