On the Campaign Trail

You may have noticed that I was at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, PA during Tuesday’s noon broadcasts. Get used to it. You will see me on the road with the candidates as part of our Commitment 2008 Coverage on Channel 4 Action News. I’ll be following the former President as he meets with the people of Erie Wednesday.

No matter how cynical we get as a people, there is still something special when a President – sitting or former – comes to our town. Such was the case with Bill Clinton’s appearance at W& J on Tuesday. Agree with him or not in his assessment of the 2008 Democratic field, he is still a former commander-in-chief and three thousand came to hear him on the small Washington county campus on Tuesday.

Former President Bill Clinton introduced by W & J senior Kristen Schuh

What struck me about this scene? The mix of people who came out to hear the former President and where those folks were from. While this was a college campus, there were quite a few people who clearly had graduated from college years before .. and what they wanted to hear from Mr. Clinton was in sharp comparison to what the younger people were looking for. While there was a “youthful exuberance” on the part of the young people in the audience, the older patrons wanted to hear about jobs and life getting better in the place they call home.

Speaking of the young people, I was witness to this much talked-about “youth movement” for the first time. While there were students in attendance who were with the college democrat at W& J, there were many college students and young people who wanted to witness the process for themselves. While it remains to be seen whether this “youth quake” favors Obama or Clinton, it will be a force to reckon with in the fall should it continue.

Finally, I saw this enthusiasm personified one young woman. Kristen Shuch is a senior and the President of the W&J Democrats, an organization which she help raise from the doldrums to become 70 strong on a 1500-person campus. She had the duty – and honor – of introducing Bill Clinton. She told me before she took the podium how nervous she was and her dream someday was to have my job.

Suddenly, as I watched her on the podium introduce the President, she transformed from nervous college student to energetic campaigner. The spirit of the moment consuming her as she told the crowd that it was time for a change .. and that the wife of this man standing behind her would create that change. Such is the power of the political process: being able to turn nervousness into energy and apathy into passion.

We can only hope that passion will carry over to the fall – regardless of the candidate young America chooses.

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