A Young Reporter's Reflections
John Dixon and former Senator Max Cleland. Click on the picture to read more about John Dixon. (Photo: Steven Ehrenberg)
I just completed one wild week as a Scholastic Student Reporter covering the South Carolina Democratic primary. It was a crazy and out-of-control kind of schedule, hopping from one event to another, trying to get a feel for the candidates and their positions. I absolutely loved it!
I attended my first presidential debate, where I formed impressions and gathered background information for events that were to follow. I saw candidates interact with families, the press, and supporters at a family forum, and a rally at Allen University supporting Senator John Edwards. Hillary, a young Brit whom we dubbed the "hostess with the mostest," gave me an in-depth, personal guided tour of the Kerry campaign.
One of my biggest thrills was being able to personally question four of the candidates, Edwards, Dean, Kucinich, and Sharpton, in the spin room at the family forum, and then seeing my own article on the Scholastic News Web site. Imagine being 10 years old and having your own byline on a national publication!
John Dixon interviews Vietnam veteran Ralph Cooper. Click on the picture to read more about John Dixon. (Photo: Steven Ehrenberg)
On a less public level, behind the scenes at the Kerry campaign, I met a real American hero: Max Cleland, a former Senator from Georgia and a triple amputee as a result of his selfless service in the Vietnam War. He explained the great esteem in which he and his fellow veterans hold Senator Kerry and why. I learned firsthand from veteran Bob Buduich how 30,000 Canadians had served in the U.S. military during Vietnam to replace the Americans who fled to Canada to avoid the draft, and how John Kerry helped them receive due recognition in their home country. He gave me a Canadian remembrance poppy in their honor. I also met veteran Allen Ditchfield, who explained the significance of the poppy in memorializing war dead. I spent time in the "Veterans' Room" fascinated by the "Band of Brother's Brigade" of veterans supporting Kerry. Men such as Walther Gallagher, Bob Barre, Charlie Mooskian, and Ralph Cooper (a personal friend of Senator Kerry's) voluntarily travel the country in a bus from primary to primary talking to other veterans about the virtues of Senator Kerry. It was a thrill to be in the room talking to such men. I had never met real life heroes before.
As I was passing the elevator, I ran into Congressman Jim Clyburn, who is one of South Carolina's more influential politicians. I asked why he supported Kerry. He said, "I think that he has the ability to bring us back together as a nation."
It surely takes a lot of people and a lot of effort to show a candidate in his or her best light. Deputy directors, field operatives, and coordinators provided me with verbal snapshots of their candidate.
I learned so much this week that I cannot begin to share it all. I read the paper and watch the news much more carefully these days in preparation for the next round of frantic activity to be spawned by the Democratic and Republican National Conventions leading up to the Presidential Election in November of 2004. I can't wait!