|Courses & Academics|
|About Educate '08|
At 7:30 a.m., two coach buses carrying about 90 students left Hofstra University. The ride was long, but we took a break half-way through at a rest stop in Connecticut, and the increasingly majestic scenery was enough to entertain our eyes. After a good lunch from Subway, we went to Lebanon High School for a rally for Senator John Edwards, a front runner in the Democratic primary race. Edwards, who is notoriously late for all his events, stood true to his reputation. Over an hour late, he finally arrived but showed no sign of regret or appreciation for our long wait. However, a bad first impression was diminished by a passionate, captivating speech.
Edwards spoke mostly about his healthcare plans, appealing strongly to human emotion and compassion. He emphasized his personal connections to the issue, including his wife, who suffered breast cancer, and his parents, who worked hard and suffered long to provide an improved life for Edwards. Edwards promised to follow in his parents' footsteps, and, as President, to improve the future of America, and provide a better life for future generations.
Reloading the bus, we settled down for a ride to Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, where we watched three very witty men analyze the current state of American politics and the election. The three men were clearly right-wing, and endorsed mainly conservative politics, but they also seemed extremely open-minded and respectful of Democratic candidates. Then we watched the debate between both the Republican and Democratic candidates. At almost 11:00 p.m., we hopped on the buses and headed back to our hotel, Red Roof Inn.
This morning at 7 a.m., the alarm clock in our hotel room at the Red Roof Inn (which, by the way, was extremely difficult to figure out), loudly aroused us from our slumber. After a shower and some nourishment, I felt much more awake. We left the hotel for a synagogue at 8:30 a.m.. Once there, we crashed a party in a dining hall and saw Congressman Hunter, who is on the Republican ballot, speak about his political ideas. Then, a representative for Hillary Clinton made a speech about why she felt Senator Clinton would be the best Democratic candidate.
Next, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico spoke and answered questions. He is on the Democratic ballot, though not in the top three choices according to polls or the results in the recent Iowa caucus. He presents a contrast from his three opposing candidates by promising to withdraw from Iraq within a year of entering office. He expresses perhaps the strongest anti-war attitude. However, despite my total agreement that the war in Iraq should never have begun, and that the next President should withdraw troops from Iraq, I'm afraid that a year will not give Iraqis enough time to regroup. If we set a timetable, as Obama and Clinton have suggested, they will feel the pressure to reorganize and get their democracy in progress, but if it is as short as a year, they will certainly fail, if not abandon their efforts immediately.
Next, Representative Gravel spoke, and he managed to make quite a fool of himself, claiming that within his Presidential term, he would definitely bring peace to the Middle East and open the U.S. borders to anyone and everyone because apparently he knows the solution to a deeply complex conflict that has lasted centuries and also feels that allowing everyone to roam the earth freely without being questioned would somehow make it peaceful. Then, we went to a Town Hall Meeting with John McCain. I was impressed with the way McCain organized the meeting. There were protestors, chanting "People with AIDS are dying, and you're not even trying!" Though they had valid points, they were rude and foolish, and it is their own fault that no one would even listen to what they had to say. However, McCain did give them a chance to speak, and responded. He also took a TON of questions, especially compared to the other candidates, and he even allowed the questioners to respond to his answer! He essentially held one-on-one conversations with individuals. I disagree with his politics, but I respect him as a politician and was very pleased with his performance today.
Next we waited an hour in the cold weather waiting to be allowed into Salem High School for a Barack Obama rally. Inside, we waited another hour and a half. I seized this opportunity to take a good nap. Then Obama finally arrived and I was pleasantly surprised to hear him actually apologize [for his late arrival]! He gave a powerful and motivational speech about hope and change. The best part was afterwards, when I fought through crowds of people to actually meet him. He shook my hand, and I thanked him for quoting Dr. Martin Luther King. He was very friendly and approachable. Then we went to dinner and sat through a discussion led by Dennis Kucinich, who fought to impeach Dick Cheney and President Bush, and who also is running for president. This concluded our day and we returned to the hotel at about 10:30 p.m.
The first thing we did today was meet New Hampshire Senator D'Allesandro. This was a nice change from all the other events, and a very interesting experience. He has been a working politician for many years, and he had dozens of stories to share. Unfortunately, there probably wasn't enough time to learn of them all. It was a lot like listening to my grandpa tell stories, except the Senator was much more interesting. He told us one story in which he was still a very young man during the time John F. Kennedy was running for President. He was comparing it to Obama's candidacy today. He told us that he had tried to get into an event with JFK, but it was full, so he went around back and climbed in through a window. Upon landing, a hand was held out, waiting for him, and he was welcomed by a voice saying "Hi, I'm John Kennedy." Later, we all joked about doing this when Hillary Clinton's event was full, and landing to her outstretched hand and voice saying "Hi, I'm Hillary Clinton." We sat downstairs and listened to her speech, which strongly impressed me. She seemed to have very specific plans and led me to trust her more than I had originally. We waited two hours to see her in person, and ended up being led outside to stand in line as she came outside to her bus. She didn't shake anyone's hand, to our disappointment, but we saw her very close-up. Some people were upset about it, but I had fun even while waiting.
One funny thing, though, was that, as we were being led outside, we were supposed to get first priority because we had been waiting downstairs so long. Then the security guard said to one boy, who had been waiting just as long as all of us, that he couldn't come because he had a Ron Paul sign. He pointed him to a group of people in the distance with Ron Paul and Kucinich signs. It was really ridiculous, and, might I add, un-American. I think they let him stay in the end but took away his sign. Finally, we boarded the bus for the long ride home. We didn't get home till late - about 10:30 p.m. - and it felt good to be in familiar surroundings. The trip overall was fantastic, and I am more than grateful I was able to participate.