The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 22, 2006


CCHS students meet their candidate

On the Tuesday after the first Monday of November 2008, a presidential election will be held, and millions of 18- through 21-year-olds will be entering the voting booths for the first time. As a person who until recently had no interest in politics, I now find myself excited to cast my vote and would even go as far as to say I am knowledgeable about the candidates.

How did I go suddenly from uninvolved student to well-informed voter? Because of a history class at CCHS named "The Presidency," taught by Tracy Davies, which runs for the first semester only (September until February.) The two classes she teaches learn about a handful of presidents, and then move on to what it takes to run for office and what it takes to win.

It's in this unit that Mrs. Davies's favorite homework assignment is given: research the potential Democratic candidates for 2008 — and she means really, really research. The day the work is due, she expects the students to know everything there is to know about each person. For example, Barack Obama has been on Oprah, he wrote about smoking pot in his best-seller book, and at 45 he is the youngest candidate. Joe Biden is the oldest at 64, ran in 1988 for office but lost due to plagiarism charges. Bill Richardson of New Mexico is the only candidate who currently holds the position of governor, which is the position most presidents hold before taking office.

Bayh for president

After a few days of discussion and debate, everyone in the class handed in a "ballot" for the Democratic President and Vice President. (My vote read "President: Bayh. Vice President: Obama.") When the tally was finished, Mrs. Davies stepped back from the board, and everyone laughed. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, a class favorite, had not only gotten the most votes for president, he had also gotten the most for vice president as well! Our shocked teacher informed us that the other class, which meets earlier in the day, had done exactly the same thing. I was proud that my choice had won, and we all thought it was hilarious.

One of our favorite things about the 50-year-old Bayh was that he has a Facebook account — a networking Internet site that most students also belong to. We all flooded his inbox with messages about our class assignment and how we hoped he would run, and shockingly, most of us received responses from his staff. They actually invited our class to attend a "meet-and-greet" in Manchester, New Hampshire, on the night of December 9. About 15 students and various parents made the trip up, as well as Mrs. Davies and some of her family.

The Puritan Conference Center in Manchester was not crowded when we arrived, but after a 40-minute wait, the small room was packed with journalists and reporters milling around. Finally the senator made his way into the room amid camera flashes, and within minutes he was standing in front of our little group in the center of the room.

Catching the political bug

Senator Evan Bayh (left), Democrat of Indiana, responds to a question by CCHS junior Eric Johnson. (Photo by Al Smith)
"My biggest fear was that the students might get a bit of a brush-off, but in fact, they could not have gotten more attention," Davies reflects. Bayh worked on his father, Birch Bayh's, presidential campaign in 1976, and told our group he hoped we had also "caught the political bug." After he spoke directly to us, mentioning and thanking us in his formal remarks and taking pictures with us, Mrs. Davies and the rest of the group were buzzing with happiness. It was incredible to think that a week ago we had been discussing the man, and now we were shaking his hand and hearing him speak in person.

After this experience, I realized how much I understand now about politics, and I can't wait to vote in 2008. Although not everyone who made the trip was a Bayh supporter, the chance to meet a candidate was extremely valuable.

Bayh announced on December 15 that he would not be running for office in 2008, leaving a fair amount of "Presidency" students extremely disappointed. I have no doubt, however, that I will cast my vote from the minute I turn 18. Classes like "The Presidency" and teachers like Mrs. Davies make CCHS a great school that provides such great experiences. Says Davies: "It was an eye-opening experience we will never forget and a huge amount of fun."

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito