B-CC grad leading Biden campaign’s efforts to mobilize students
Sebastian continuing advocacy she honed in Bethesda, Berkeley
Former Vice President Joe Biden with Lubna Sebastian
Photo from Lubna Sebastian
A month after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, last year, Lubna Sebastian joined Joe Biden’s presidential campaign as an assistant, helping to coordinate between the national headquarters and state teams.
A month later, she went to the campaign leadership to pitch a program to galvanize student support to help elect the former vice president.
Her idea, “Students for Biden,” launched in August 2019. Sebastian asked to lead it, even though that would mean she would be juggling multiple roles with the campaign.
Last month, she became the full-time director of the program, which now boasts about 300 chapters in universities and high schools around the country.
Sebastian, 23, is a 2015 graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. People who know her say her she is a hardworking advocate for social justice — qualities she demonstrated in high school and beyond.
Patricia Parmelee, the director of B-CC’s College and Career Center before retiring in May, helped Sebastian navigate the college application process. Sebastian said Parmelee’s mentorship had a “huge impact” on her life.
Parmelee wrote in an email that she learned Sebastian had joined Biden’s campaign when the two last spoke more than a year ago.
“I [had] been a millimeter away from emailing her to learn about her responsibilities with the campaign,” Parmelee wrote. “Now I learn that she is the director of Students for Biden. Not a surprise. Lubna is a leader!”
At B-CC, Sebastian was in charge of planning special events for the student government and team captain of the mock trial team. She was also involved in the school’s theater program.
Sebastian was politically active in high school, joining other B-CC students in protesting Freddie Gray’s death while he was in Baltimore Police Department custody.
Sebastian’s work on preventing campus sexual assault at UC Berkeley brought her into Biden’s orbit for the first time.
In her sophomore year, Sebastian sought to join the Student Advisory Committee of It’s on Us, an initiative started by the Obama-Biden White House, with hundreds of campus chapters. The committee is responsible for coordinating strategy with the initiative’s regional teams.
Sebastian was told that she would have to wait eight months for the start of the next application period, so she joined a different sexual assault prevention group on campus. In the meantime, she made sure she stayed in touch with It’s on Us.
“Every couple of weeks, I checked in and congratulated them on the great work they were doing,” she said. “When the time came, I applied, and I received a spot immediately.”
For It’s on Us, she organized fundraisers and educational events at campuses in the western United States.
Sebastian’s schedule at UC Berkeley, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political economy, was as busy as it was at B-CC.
She was vice president of Delta Sigma, a sorority she co-founded. She helped write the bylaws.
In 2018, the summer before her senior year, Sebastian committed to politics post-graduation.
She was working as a corporate communications intern at United Airlines’ headquarters in Chicago. She chose that position over an internship for a Democratic senator to get valuable experience in a new city. Plus, it was paid.
Then news of the Trump administration’s family separation policy came out.
“I could have been somewhere else fighting against [the] child separation policies,” Sebastian said. “So I knew when I graduated, I wanted to do something with my life to try to get [President Donald] Trump out of office and try to be within a movement that was full of decency and empathy and compassion.”
Sebastian said Biden — who picked U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California on Tuesday as his running mate for this year’s presidential election — is leading that charge.
“He genuinely cares. He wants to fight for us, but he also wants to heal a lot of the issues that we’re facing,” she said.
Sebastian, seeking refuge from the pandemic, moved in mid-March back to her family’s home in Bethesda from Philadelphia, where the campaign headquarters is.
With the November election approaching, Sebastian has been planning and holding meetings on issues like gun violence. Her mother, father and younger sister can testify on how busy she has been.
“We always get these [text messages] where she says, ‘Please everybody, quiet down. I’m going live,’” said Shahin Sebastian, Lubna’s mother.
Lubna sometimes asks her family to leave the house for particularly important calls, her mother said.
Adila Sebastian said her sister spends so much time holed up in the basement on phone calls or in Zoom meetings that they sometimes don’t see each other during the day.
“She’s very hardworking and very passionate about things. She’s the most hardworking person I know,” said Adila, a rising senior at B-CC.
Lubna said that during the pandemic, Students for Biden has connected young people through its virtual events. Many of them have felt isolated after their graduation ceremonies were canceled, their campus jobs and internship opportunities lost.
“I’m glad that our campaign gave them a space to come together,” she said.