2008-01-17 / People

Young People Tell Their Political Views

By Sara Nelson
Young People Tell Their Political Views

Young People Tell Their Political Views

Senior Muriel Garner is one of the RUHS students who's politically aware as the primary season gets underway. (Herald / Tim Calabro)Senior Muriel Garner is one of the RUHS students who's politically aware as the primary season gets underway. (Herald / Tim Calabro)

By Sara Nelson

This week the Herald Millennial News Team talked to White River Valley students and their teachers to get a sense of which candidates they support, what issues they care about, what resources they use for political information, and how much they're talking about the presidential campaigns.

We were surprised to find that even the young teens we spoke to were well-informed, enthusiastic, and opinionated. Here are some of our findings.

Information

Young people we talked to said they do make use of the internet for political information, visiting sites like Facebook, where you can sport a virtual button for you're your favorite candidate, and YouTube, where you can watch episodes of The Daily Show and see Barack Obama play basketball against Tyra Banks.

A more academic site is www.glassbooth.org. Brian Rainville, a social studies teacher at RUHS, said he assigned his class to write a paper based on what they learned at the site, which matches your political views to the candidates that most agree with them.

The most politically active teens that we spoke to stressed that they tried to get their information from a variety of sources.

Candidates

According to a New York Times poll, Barack Obama got 60% of the vote of 18-24-year-olds in the New Hampshire Democratic primary (for the complete breakdown, see http://politics.nytimes.com/election-guide/2008/results/vote-polls/NH.html). In our informal investigation, we found Obama enthusiasm prevalent among young people here as well, especially among the high school students we talked to.

Hannah McMeeken, a senior at Sharon Academy, traveled to New Hampshire several times before the primary to persuade strangers to vote for Obama. She said she got inspired when she saw Obama in one of the debates.

"I support most of his policies, and I'm in love with his hope," McMeekin said.

Muriel Garner, a senior at RUHS, is another student who says Obama has her vote. She's been following the candidate for a couple of years, after hearing him speak at UVM.

"There may be some issues he stands for that I don't agree with right now, but he is the person who will listen to what our nation needs," she said.

Josh Haskins, 25, a Vermont Law School student, said the atmosphere at the law school is left-leaning and primarily pro-Obama, although he and quite a few other students are supporting John Edwards.

Another VLS student and Edwards supporter is Jared Carter, 26, who said to him the candidate represents "the perfect combination of talking about change, and working for that change, especially for the poor and middle class. And he's standing up against special interests."

The law school is also home to at least a few active young Republicans, including Peter Abbarno, 32, a student who started a group of Vermont Law School Republicans. Abbarno said members of the group support the full range of Republican candidates; he himself would like to see Giuliani elected.

Talk

The political atmosphere at the law school is lively and liberal, and can be uncomfortable for students with opposing, conservative views, Abbarno said.

"I've had professors who are not only openly anti-Bush, but anti-Republican," he said. Abbarno said he's tried to create an environment at the school where "people aren't scared of Republicans." In addition to helping out on some campaigns and helping with Veteran's Day events, the campus Republican group Abbarno founded holds meetings which Democrats are welcome to attend, "so we can talk about all the issues."

"You don't become a better person by only surrounding yourself with people who agree with you," Abbarno said.

The high schools in the area also seem to be full of discussion. Seth Goodwin, a history teacher at Sharon Academy, is one of many local teachers who hold current events discussions in class that sometimes include discussion of the campaigns.

Garner said she has this sort of discussion in her literature class.

"Our teacher is trying to get us excited," she said.

"We don't necessarily talk about the candidates, but about the whole election process."

Action

Not many teens are as involved as McMeekin, who has a long history of working on campaigns, and has served as an intern in the U. S. Senate. For her early canvassing for Obama in New Hampshire, she got up early with friends, headed to the campaign offices in Lebanon, learned a spiel, and then went out door knocking in the cold with a clipboard, telling voters why she supports Obama, and recording their responses.

A significant number of other students in the area, including a group of ten from The Sharon Academy, have made the trek to New Hampshire to see candidates speak.

Several of the law school students had also been door knocking in New Hampshire before the primary. Carter said that when he went, he noticed that "the Obama and Clinton people were always one step ahead or behind me- I'd see their literature on people's doors,"- perhaps another bit of anecdotal evidence of the involvement of resilient young volunteers.

Inspiration:

Carter was one of many politically active students who said he came from a politically active family.

"My father really instilled that value," he said.

"We are a very political family, we talk about these issues at the dinner table, but I try to choose who I support based on my own views," McMeekin said.

Students stressed that their main inspiration to be politically active is their sense of the urgency of the issues facing the country.

"We've got to be concerned. The country's at a huge tipping point," Carter said.

Haskins agreed.

"We need something new. The problems we're going to face, are facing, are really big, and we're going to need a big change to solve them," he said.

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