The election process, up close and personal - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

The election process, up close and personal

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Posted: Saturday, January 26, 2008 10:36 pm | Updated: 8:58 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

For many young political animals, casting their first ballot in a presidential election is quite a rush. That inaugural foray into the thunderdome of democracy can be a memorable experience.

Now mix in the possibility of that election resulting in the nation’s first female or first black president. Nothing like history to add a little intrigue …

Jason Parrott of Queen Creek is one of those young political animals, and last week he got to meet one of those potential history-makers.

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton came to the Valley on Tuesday, and Parrott used his connections — his friend’s grandmother knows the co-chair of Clinton’s Arizona campaign — to get into a VIP event with the candidate. He got to shake her hand and chatted with her “for about two seconds,” he said.

Parrott, who describes his political stance as “more Republican … (a) more middle-of-the-road mind-set,” frequently talks politics with his parents at home. So, if he had more time with the candidate, what would he have discussed with her?

“Education, the war in Iraq, taxes, our $9 trillion debt” and her views on whether to invoke a draft to shore up the nation’s military forces, the Harvard-bound Chandler High School senior said. He also would have asked for details about Clinton’s health care plan.

Dana Kennedy, communications director for Clinton’s Arizona campaign, said she has attended campaign events in several states and has seen more young people like Parrott taking part. “Parents bring their kids, some kids come on their own … kids bring their parents, too,” she said.

Indeed, Parrott said that while some of his classmates are focused on youthful pastimes, many others are more apt to study the candidates. He said those students are “intrigued by the process and their first vote … (they are) trying to make a difference.”

And while often parents will guide them, these young voters are out to find the candidate who fits their own views. For Parrott, a member of Chandler High’s debate team, part of that process was tuning in watch the Democratic candidates’ debate last Monday in Myrtle Beach, S.C. So as someone familiar with the art of debate, what did he think of the throwdown?

“I don’t think (John) Edwards got enough time. It was more of a two-person debate,” he said, adding that Edwards tried to keep the exchange focused on the issues, while Clinton and Barack Obama were driven to delve into more personal matters. Parrott, as both a debater and an undecided voter looking for some answers, was left wanting.

“Right now, more issue-oriented (exchanges) would be better,” he said.

The student came away from the meet-and-greet with Clinton believing such events are “something everyone needs to experience. You’re sitting in a room with people of all different backgrounds, there to experience democracy.”

As voters, if we exhibited just half the commitment that Parrott does to such an important decision, we and our nation would all be better off. The student, indeed, should be our teacher.

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