Universiteit Leiden

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Student Bram wanted to be mayor as a boy

Bram Geurds (20) is fascinated by politics. When he was 12, a political debate on TV caught his attention. And he decided he wanted to be mayor one day. Unsurprisingly, Bram is studying political science and is politically active. It might seem like he’s on course to become a professional politician. But no, not necessarily.

The fascination with politics has been a recurring theme in the life of Westlander Bram Geurds, starting from the moment he wanted to become mayor at the age of 12. When he was a 14-year-old secondary school pupil, he interviewed the mayor of Westland, a municipality of 11 villages south of The Hague that is dominated by greenhouse horticulture, for an assignment. But he didn’t join the student council at his school; he decided he would rather take part in the musical. ‘My parents made me choose anyway, and I thought the student council had too little room to manoeuvre.’

His secondary school project, which he did together with two fellow pupils, dealt with a political subject: the influence of Russia and the United States on the UN Security Council. It was part of a project by the Atlantic Education Committee (Atlantische Onderwijscommissie), which annually invites secondary school pupils to focus their school projects on international peace and security. The participating pupils were given a tour of the House of Representatives and spoke with members of parliament. Bram loved that.

‘The Politically Active project from the Youth Council. I assigned the young people at an intermediate vocational school to write an advisory report.’
‘The Politically Active project from the Youth Council. I assigned the young people at an intermediate vocational school to write an advisory report.’

Westland Youth Council

In 2018, the Westland municipal council voted in favour of a motion by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party to set up a Youth Council. It was an urgently needed initiative intended to give young people their own voice. Bram immediately got involved because he wants to contribute to a better world, especially for young people. He became vice chair and organisational coordinator. The municipal council issued a set of regulations, an assignment to recruit 25 young people and a request to express their opinion twice a year. 

‘Looking back, it was a great and instructive experience to set up the Youth Council’, says Bram, ‘but at the time we hardly knew where to start.’ They got there by trial and error. They set up a board, an Advisory Committee and an Organising Committee for, among other things, promotional activities such as school visits and other ways of consulting young people.


What are the hot issues for young people in Westland? Bram: ‘There’s a lot that is not in Westland. No train or tram, for example; the bus is the only public transport. The Hague is doable, but students who study in other cities commute for more than an hour. There is also a big shortage of housing for young people in Westland. Another issue is that young people have to go to The Hague if they want to let loose on the dance floor, since there are few nightlife venues for young people in Westland. And the young people would like to have somewhere to practise calisthenics.

‘This photo was taken for the #Elkestemtelt (Every Vote Counts) campaign, in which I called on young people in particular to sign up to be polling station volunteers.’
‘This photo was taken for the #Elkestemtelt (Every Vote Counts) campaign, in which I called on young people in particular to sign up to be polling station volunteers.’

To the polls!

In the Youth Council, Bram started a campaign to get the youth of Westland to vote in March. ‘I think that’s really important. I’m no longer vice chair of the Youth Council, but I remained a member so that I could do this.’ Together with other youth councils, they are working to create a national campaign.

When asked if he thinks he can also reach young people with a migration background, Bram responds with mild irritation. ‘Those young people really are no different. I have friends from Turkish and Afghan backgrounds. They’re quite normal. Their image is shaped by a small, unrepresentative group.’ 

In addition, Bram is a strong advocate for sustainability in the Youth Council. He is trying to ensure that reusable glassware is used at major events in the Westland, as it was in Leiden on 3 October.

‘This is a photo of me with the medal, in front of the Westland/nl letters.’ (Photo: PR/Wilke Geurds)
‘This is a photo of me with the medal, in front of the Westland/nl letters.’ (Photo: PR/Wilke Geurds)

Political scientist

Third-year student Bram soon discovered that studying political science trains one to become a political scientist, not a politician. ‘It is certainly an interesting programme, but it’s very theoretical. I suggested once that the curriculum should also include some skills from the political craft, such as debating and presenting. But I don’t know if anything will ever come of that.’ 

Recently, Bram won the Pieter de la Court Medal from the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. This medal is awarded annually to a student who has made an unpaid contribution to society, and it is based on the recommendation of fellow students. That was a nice surprise. 

The bachelor’s research Bram is currently working on concerns groups that do not vote. Only 59% of less educated young people vote, a number that Bram thinks could be increased.

Are you or do you know a student with a nice, sweet, interesting, exciting, special or inspiring story? About something related to their studies or beyond them, or both? Then send us an email. Each month from now on, we will be featuring a student in our Student Newsletter. 

Too honest

You might think that Bram would be eager to get into politics – for example, by standing as a candidate for the Westland municipal council – but that is not the case. Making the world a better place is still his ambition, but his experiences have also taught him self-knowledge. Bram is a man of action and questions whether he could stand the slow pace of politics.  

‘I still think it’s a great profession, and I really enjoy and find the political game interesting to follow, but I think I’m too honest to play it myself. I have a hard time saying no. And besides, these days politicians are often targets of threats and aggression. I think I’d attract too much of that.’

Bram Geurds
‘Together with my father, I collect stray cans and plastic bottles to show that litter is a bigger problem than people think. Since September, the counter has reached 3,240 pieces.’

Working in home care

Recently, I said to my mother: “I don’t want to be the boss; I want to be the best employee...” I am super creative in public action, unafraid and good at building a network. I think I’d make a good coordinator. I also think I know far too little to be a full-fledged politician yet. I want to get to know society much better.’ 

Bram now works ten hours a week in home care, which is also his part-time job. ‘I really like doing it. My five regular clients are so happy to see me! Health care is going to be one of the big issues of the near future, and I want to be right in the middle of that. And, never say never.’ 

He doesn’t want to say what his political affiliation is. ‘I do have a preference, but I definitely want to be independent on the Youth Council.’

Perhaps one day we’ll meet Mayor Bram Geurds. He might pursue his childhood dream after all.

If you’re also interested in politics, check out two Dutch-language podcasts from the Institute of Political Science:

Text: Corine Hendriks
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