Leaders of the Democratic and Republican national committees teamed up with MTV in the Jack Morton Auditorium Monday to promote political awareness and activism among American youth.
At the press conference, DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and MTV News correspondent Gideon Yago announced two essay contests, one for each party, geared towards people between the ages of 18 and 24.
The winners will speak at one of the two parties’ national conventions this summer, where the official 2004 presidential candidates from each party will be announced.
“The youth vote is so important, that’s why we’re doing something bipartisan,” said McAuliffe, as he announced the Democrats’ essay contest.
Announcing the Republican contest, Gillespie said he was excited to bring in more youth voters and raise political awareness in college-age Americans.
“We’re anxious to hear from our contestants,” he said.
In front of a crowd of about 60 students and journalists, Yago promoted MTV’s “Choose or Lose” campaign, which seeks to mobilize 20 million 18 to 30-year-old voters for the November election.
“We’re going to prove that young people are engaged in the political process as much as ever,” Yago said.
The musical group Third Day also spoke at Monday’s event, voicing their support for President Bush and reiterating the need for young people to vote.
“If we don’t choose we really do lose,” said Tai Anderson, the group’s bassist.
According to a press release issued Monday by both committees, the Republican “Stand Up and Holla'” contest encourages young adults to reflect on President Bush’s call to community service, while the Democratic “Speak Out for the Future” essay will question contestants on the importance of young people in politics.
All 18-to 24-year-olds interested in entering the contest can find more information on the committee Web sites, where they will also be able to submit their entries from now until May 28. A selection committee for each party will choose 10 finalists by June 15, and the public will vote on the final speakers. The winners will be announced on MTV’s “Total Request Live” July 19 or 20.
The event featured a Q-and-A period that allowed students to pick the brains of the two committee chairmen.
McAuliffe denied allegations that he used “negative language” to describe past College Republicans efforts, saying, “I (support) young people from both political parties, and independents as well.”
“(W)hoever wants to come out here and vote, let’s go,” said McAuliffe in response to a question from junior Lee Roupas, chairman of the College Republicans.
Before the press conference, the College Democrats and College Republicans sponsored voter registration rallies in anticipation of the party chairmen’s arrival.
The Republican event in front of the Media and Public Affairs building featured a hummer named “Reggie Jr.,” a miniature version of Reggie the Registration rig that travels all over the country to register voters. The Democratic rally in front of T.G.I. Fridays on I Street featured music sponsored by the D.C. radio station WKYS.
During the conference, offensive chanting broke out between the CRs and CDs outside the SMPA building as the essay contest was announced.
“It was like a fight; they chanted one thing and we chanted another,” said Catholic University junior Jessica Casper, a member of the College Democrats.
“It was just a lot of negativity that I think is really unnecessary … especially on the streets of D.C.,” she added.
Casper said that the CRs chanted slogans such as “Kerry for terrorists,” while the CDs countered with refrains about President Bush such as “Like father, like son, four years and he’s done.”