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July 27, 2016

Young people do care about being part of the democratic process

Student Alex Mathews attending a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Annandale, Va. Photo by Vicky Pasquantonio

Student Alex Mathews attending a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Annandale, Va. Photo by Vicky Pasquantonio

By Alex Mathews

On July 15, I joined hundreds of supporters, members of Congress and vice presidential nominee Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to see Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speak at a rally in Northern Virginia.

In the line that stretched under the sun far into the parking lot of Northern Virginia Community College, I met several different types of Clinton supporters. Ann Romero had been a long-time Republican and proud Ronald Reagan supporter, but she has since become more independent and now supports Clinton.

“I really do believe she can do a better job than Trump. He has a strong ego and has also been hard against women,” Romero said.

Ann Romero attending a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Annandale, Va. Photo by Vicky Pasquantonio

Ann Romero attending a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Annandale, Va. Photo by Vicky Pasquantonio

I also spoke to a young woman who has been a long-time Clinton supporter. “I am politically farther left than Hillary, but I still think that she is the best choice for the country,” she told me, adding that Clinton better represents the entire country.

The woman also told me that it’s past the time for a woman to be president of the United States. “I would love for young girls to see Hillary as president and think that’s something they can accomplish,” she said. This comment particularly resonated with me, because as a young woman I am aided by the efforts and successes of women before me who overcame barriers in politics and other areas.

There was also the opportunity to hear dissenting views in the crowd. I met a group of people voicing their distrust of Hillary by protesting. When I asked who they would support in the election, they responded that it was not about supporting any candidate, but ensuring Clinton does not become president. They dislike Clinton because of her, “complete disregard for national security and law … and we if can’t trust her in the State Department, we certainly can’t trust her in the Oval Office.” The protesters expressed their views in a calm, peaceful manner.

Seeing Clinton, who also happens to be a woman, speak live was a truly unforgettable experience. She called for unity within the party and recognized the role young people play in this election.

Clinton criticized Trump’s scapegoating and bullying of minorities. She said she opposes building walls that divide people. I agree with her. Trump’s comments have been racist and offensive, and blaming minority groups for various societal problems. This only divides us further. This is a belief commonly shared amongst youth voters, and might help Clinton sway some younger Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

Vendor selling pins at a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Annandale, Va. Photo by Vicky Pasquantonio

Vendor selling pins at a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Annandale, Va. Photo by Vicky Pasquantonio

Clinton took the stage with Kaine, who subsequently became her running-mate, and called for unity in the Democratic party in what she described as “one of the most consequential elections.” This is another point that stuck with me. This election is bigger than partisan conflicts and even Clinton and Trump. Even though I cannot vote, it is my responsibility as an American citizen to understand the consequences of this election.

Clinton spoke about a higher $15 minimum wage, debt-free college, free community college and closing the gap on income inequality, specifically for the top one or two percent. This reminded me of Bernie Sanders and his anti-top one-percent rhetoric.

She ended her speech on a hopeful note about the upcoming Democratic convention, and a call for unity in the general election.

As a student, aspiring journalist and American citizen, this experience truly excited me about government in America.

Alex Mathews is a junior at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va.

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