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Kerry's Kids Hit the Campaign Trail
By Katelyn Lemay, 13
Scholastic Student Reporter

U.S. Senator John Kerry's daughters Alexandra (left) and Vanessa (right) attend a campaign rally at Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, September 3, 2003. (© Michael Springer/Zuma Press)

Vanessa Kerry, 26, and Chris Heinz, 30, rushed into the John Kerry headquarters from the sub-zero temperatures in Manchester, New Hampshire, to sit down and talk with me and another member of the Scholastic Kid Press Corps about their father's candidacy for President. Vanessa and Chris are currently working on Kerry's campaign full time: Vanessa is taking time off from Harvard Medical School, and Chris is on leave from his job.

John Kerry is one of the nine Democratic candidates running in the presidential primary elections. Both Chris, Kerry's stepson, and Vanessa, his daughter, have been visiting college campuses and high schools to get young people interested in voting—for Kerry, of course.

New Hampshire holds the second presidential caucus in the nation on January 27. Iowa is first with caucuses on January 19, so Vanessa and Chris have spent a lot of time traveling between the two states.

When asked what makes Kerry the right choice for President, Vanessa was quick to answer. She commented on his voting record, foreign policy, and his idealism as a whole.

"I think he has all the right 'big ideas'," Vanessa said. Chris and Vanessa both agree that if Kerry is elected President, one of the first things he should focus on is healing America's troubled relationship with the United Nations. Chris said it was important for Kerry to reach out to moderates. Vanessa added that it was also important for him to invest in the economy.

Both spoke of Senator Kerry with great respect as a politician, but also as a person and a father. Vanessa has had many good times growing up with her father.

"He's such a great dad," she said. "To choose one thing as the most fun would do him an injustice." She and Chris have enjoyed some funny moments recently. They said Kerry showed up at the beach in a full wetsuit with shorts over it! Chris also recalls his stepdad's attempts at singing "Happy Birthday." "He doesn't have a good voice, so that's always funny," he chuckled.

Vanessa wanted to emphasize the fact that it's important for kids to get involved in politics and to encourage peers to talk about elections.

"Enthusiasm is contagious," she said.

Chris said to never underestimate kids and their capacity to influence each other and their parents. He believes that the lack of involvement in politics is a national problem and the press needs to help people feel good about the candidates. If anything, Chris and Vanessa are leading by example.