Scholastic Student Reporter
The first political rally I had ever attended as a reporter was a John Edwards lunchtime event held on a weekday, so we thought the crowds would be light. But because Senator Edwards had done so well at the Iowa caucuses, it was jam-packed and almost impossible to get in. We were lucky to have front row seats though. We fortunately met his press secretary, Jen Palmieri, who pulled Senator Edwards over to us, and I was able to ask him about the security of our nation's schools and the children attending them.
A few days later, we met our editors, Suzanne Freeman and Jennifer Slackman, at a Wesley Clark pancake breakfast. Again, we were right up front, and I was so thrilled to have General Clark take my question.
"You are a hero in the eyes of many Americans for your military service. Who is your hero?" I asked him. He asked me my name and who I was reporting forand the entire exchange was broadcast on national television.
Later we met Hollywood actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen who were campaigning with Wesley Clark. Mary Steenburgen was so gracious and took her time to answer my question: "What is it about Arkansas that seems to produce so many politicians?" (President Bill Clinton was also from Arkansas.)
Later in the evening, we attended the 100 Club Dinner by the New Hampshire Democratic Party in Nashua, New Hampshire. This was definitely my least favorite event. There were so many people we had to sit in a crowded pressroom watching the debate on a large, wide-screen television monitor. We took notes and wrote until 10 p.m.
Monday, the chaotic last day before the primary, we attended a Howard Dean town-hall meeting at the Palace Theater. This was a great event. I told Mr. Dean I had read that as Governor of the state of Vermont, 50 percent of the people working with him were women. "If elected President, will 50 percent of your cabinet be women?" I asked him. The crowd roared!
He spoke for quite some time on affirmative action. He told us how women only make 76 cents for every one dollar that men make. He looked directly at us and said he hoped that would change by the time we were old enough to enter the workforce.
Later that day, at the Merrimack Restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire, we caught up with Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was campaigning for President Bush. Four years ago Senator McCain, who was running for the Republican nomination, won the New Hampshire primary.
I asked him which candidate he thought would give President Bush a run for his money. We also met Congressman Jeb Bradley, New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson, Manchester Mayor Bob Baines, Ronald Reagan Jr., the U.S. Ambassador of New Zealand John Wood, and Chairman of the Republican National Committee. At the end of the day, we visited NBC campaign headquarters where we talked with Tim Russert of Meet the Press, Campbell Brown of NBC News, and Chris Jansing from MSNBC.
Election morning, in the freezing cold, we conducted exit polls at Webster School. I appreciated Chris Jansing's advice about wearing thermal underwear and being properly dressed for the weather. In the afternoon, we were back at NBC headquarters to be interviewed live on MSNBC by Ms. Jansing. She was great with us; I wasn't nervous at all.
I can say that meeting the candidates and hearing them speak in real life is so different and much better than watching them on television. It is so exciting and the excitement is contagious. After my first rally, I couldn't wait to attend another one. Who knows, maybe I have met and interviewed the next President of the United States. Wow!