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September 3, 2012

Students Get New Perspective at RNC Breakfast

Three local high school students (pictured left with Judy Woodruff) affiliated with the NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs program to foster media literacy attended the RNC breakfast, sometimes stepping out of their political comfort zone. They wrote reflections on what they gained from their experience, and how they now view the political process.

The PBS NewsHour hosted a newsmaker breakfast at the 2012 Republican National Convention that included a panel discussion with Republican leaders.

The event was moderated by the NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff and focused on youth engagement with party politics.


Alex, 17, SSN Multimedia Editor

AlexB

The Republican National Convention has always been that giant off in the hillside. Months before it started I began to hear talk about the preparation, the security involved, the protesters, all on the news, never really near me. But the PBS breakfast we were invited to changed my view of the convention dramatically.

We arrived at the University of Tampa’s campus earlier than expected and instead of seeing the many screening stations and the security we heard so much about on the news – we just drove in. No questions asked. I assume our experience would have differed had we been nearer to the epicenter of activity in downtown, but I was still initially shocked at how lax the security appeared to be.

The event at UT’s historic Plant Hall started with a short introduction of the first guest, chairman of the College Republicans Alex Schriver. We had interviewed him before the broadcast, which unfortunately gave away most of the comments he made on stage.  The next two guests were Ken Cuccinelli, attorney general of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Kerry Healey, former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts under Mitt Romney. And when the brief talk about the future of the Republican Party concluded – what seemed to be just a pitch for Paul Ryan – they opened the room up for questions.

Immediately, dozens of hands raised and dozens of questions were respectfully flung at the panel.  Questions about social issues, economic issues, Obamacare, abortion, all were asked. And almost none was answered. It was astounding to see how the panel would completely avoid the question, instead pitching for Paul Ryan or blaming Obama. The moderator, Judy Woodruff, would push the three guests to answer the question, only to be dismissed. It was interesting that 20 minutes in, I felt like all I heard from the guests were the same three lines over and over no matter the situation.

This breakfast provided great insight into the Republican Party and politics in general for me. I now know I would never want to pursue a career in politics, and I commend all reporters who work endlessly to get the unbiased truth to the public. It’s difficult sometimes, but everyone deserves to hear the facts.

Chelsea, 17, SNN Opinions Editor

ChleseaH

When I was asked to go to the PBS Newshour breakfast, I jumped at the opportunity. I am fond of politics and to be able to go to the Republican National Convention in any capacity is an awesome experience.

The young voters demographic seemed to be the main focus of the panel discussion at the University of Tampa. This is understandable because the main person that was speaking at this breakfast was Alex Schriver, chairman of the College Republicans. Other than that, the only thing that the speakers wanted to talk about was the economy and jobs and how Obama’s economic plan has not been helping America in the manner that they believe it should be. Every question asked would go back to that contention or would not be answered. They were experts at talking around a question.

My impression is that they find social issues to be highly insignificant. We were sitting next to Schriver’s communications manager and when an audience member asked a question about the pro-life versus pro-choice argument, she flipped her hair and rolled her eyes. This is a person that is supposed to be attracting young people to the Republican Party and she certainly wasn’t doing that by being condescending toward a pressing issue in America today.

By the end of it all, I felt I had gained a new perspective into politics, even if it wasn’t a positive one. It was definitely an experience that I will carry with me and learn from on my path to becoming a politician.

Symone, 16, SSN Managing Editor

SymoneB

Question dodging, conservatively-dressed Republicans compete with a mouth-watering yogurt parfait sprinkled with diced pineapple and strawberry chunks for my attention. Despite the delicious distraction sitting in front of me, I manage to keep my eyes and ears open at the PBS NewsHour Newsmaker Breakfast.

In the end, I’m glad I did.

Coming from a family of Barack Obama fanatics and living in a house decked out in Obama merchandise, from handmade Obama pillows to a three-foot poster of the Obamas’ first dance at the inauguration ball, I was raised to be a Democrat. However, I’m still open to hearing the opinions of the opposing political party.

After attending this event, many of my misconceptions about the Republican Party were cleared up. I used to view them as ultra-conservative rednecks or white-collar yuppies living in a bubble, completely oblivious to the real world and reality of the average Joe. But actually, they are regular people who happen to have different political views than I do.

I enjoyed listening to their logical stances about issues in the country – though I didn’t always agree.

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