While GW’s 10,000 undergraduates are only a small fraction of the 40 million youth voters eligible to cast a ballot this November, they know how to flex their political muscles.
Below are the stories of some students who not only promote their political messages at GW but also work on a national level to make their candidates a winner in November.
Ann Kelly: Real world experience
Only a sophomore at GW, Ann Kelly is already a paid senior staffer at College Republican National headquarters. She took the semester off to work more than 40 hours a week to get the president re-elected.
“Basically being the political junky that I am and coming to GW, I knew this was going to be the semester to take off,” Kelly said. “This is going to be one of the most important elections of our lifetime and if I turned down this opportunity, I would regret it.”
Kelly is on the executive board of the GW chapter of the College Republicans and has worked at its national office over the summer. Last month, she attended the Republican National Convention and was on the floor when President Bush spoke.
“It’s great because we realize we are not always the most targeted demographic in the Republican party, since youth tend to vote Democratic,” she said. “But the popularity of the president with youth right now is the highest it’s been since the Reagan era.”
James Williams: Kerry’s way or the highway
Junior James Williams has a full schedule. Working more than 50 hours a week at the regional political state desk at the Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign, Williams also takes two classes at the University and is a GW College Democrats executive board member.
Williams has met Sen. John Kerry several times, and praised his candidate’s legislative achievements.
“(Kerry) has an amazing record on the environment, foreign policy and women’s issues, and everyone knows he’s a war hero. I really respect him, and I think he’s a very bright individual,” he said.
Williams added that he would have gotten involved with the election no matter where he went to school, but said that GW’s “animated political culture” facilitated his enthusiasm for the election. He also offered some advice for all those unsure about who they will vote for.
“I think what they need to do is get involved, pay attention, watch the debates,” he said. “If they look at George Bush’s record and look at Kerry’s, and if they honestly think that the country is on the right track, then they should vote for Bush. But if not, Kerry’s your man.”
John Plack: Yes, I got to meet President Bush
“I don’t look at it as a job, it is something I believe in. If you take it with seriousness, it will take you to the next level,” said sophomore John Plack, a staff assistant in the Republican National Committee Treasury Department.
An intern last spring, Plack now works about 40 hours a week at RNC headquarters. Despite his busy schedule, he takes classes, stays active in the University CRs and tries to maintain some semblance of a normal life as a college sophomore.
Plack said his most exciting moment happened when Bush came to RNC headquarters to meet the entire staff. Plack also heard him speak at the convention, an experience that further affirmed his support for the president.
“It’s what he believes in – in the people, in the country and he sees a potential about what American can be and he wants to take us there,” Plack said.
Tori Wender: No flip-flopping here
“We’re not swing voters,” senior Tori Wender said with a smirk on her face.
A member of Colonials for Kerry, Wender has no reservations about her support for the Massachusetts senator. She has been with him since the beginning.
“I joined Colonials for Kerry in January, because at the time he was my candidate and not yet affiliated with other Democrats who were fighting the same fight,” she said.
Wender works three days a week in the war room at the Kerry-Edwards 2004 headquarters. She met Kerry when he came to GW last year and met vice presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife after the North Carolina senator was nominated.
“I think he has the experience that the leader of our country needs, which I don’t think Bush has,” she said about Kerry.
Wender added that she thinks one of the biggest factors in this election will be the youth vote.
“Youth are the most underrepresented demographic in the voting population and I know both parties, especially Kerry, are realizing that if they can get it, they can win,” she said.
Lee Roupas: GW Republicans all the way
Senior Lee Roupas is no stranger to politics. A former Student Association presidential candidate and dedicated member of the CRs, Roupas has had a strong hand in political activities at GW.
“The College Democrats say that they are the biggest party on campus, and the College Republicans say we’re the best party on campus,” Roupas said. “The Republicans here are part of the University, not just a fringe group.”
Roupas has worked with various high-profile politicians throughout his years at GW, and is currently working at the Bush campaign’s communication department. He described his participation in the 2004 election season and his new job as “a life changing experience.”
“Bush has a vision for the next four years,” he said. “I am very confident we are going to win and I want to be a part of that,” he said.
Adam Conner: Real politics
The war in Iraq, a possible implementation of the draft, college aid and getting a job after college – these are all issues that matter to junior Adam Conner.
Conner works on the research team at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, where he compiles Kerry’s personal history, his voting history and press clippings. The reason? “So that if anything comes up, we already know about it,” he said.
Taking only two courses this semester to make time for his internship, Conner said he still appreciates the crossover of his classroom and work experiences.
“I go from the campaign to a class called ‘Campaign and Elections,’ so what you learn in the classroom complements what you see in the office, Conner said.
He added, “This is a very important election, no matter what you believe in and anyone that tells you otherwise is fooling themselves.”