While Ryan Crocker, the ambassador to Iraq, and Gen. David Petraeus, America’s top military commander in Iraq, sat in front of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the top legislator in America sat with four college students in Gelman Library. Weird.
The night before, we spent hours ticking off the questions. Sitting on the second floor of The Hatchet’s townhouse, six – at times seven – people who had only corresponded through e-mail scoured the Internet and rifled through each other’s minds, grappling for information about Nancy Pelosi.
We wanted to know why she hasn’t endorsed a candidate. Why has she been unsuccessful in enacting change in China? And as college journalists, we wanted to be taken seriously.
MTV, the station that promulgated trashy reality television, brought us together. They had a very interesting television show, whereby college journalists would sit down with policy makers and discuss anything and everything. The show, called “Editorial Board,” premiered a few weeks ago with Bill Clinton as a guest during his Clinton Global Initiative University in New Orleans. Four journalists from Tulane University, the University of Southern California, Smith College (Mass.) and Howard had Clinton wagging his finger, raising his voice and defending his legacy. In short, it was wildly successful.
The only rule on this show is that there were there are no rules. No bounds on what we could ask. There would be no restrictions, little adult supervision and a carefully constructed script with hard-hitting questions for Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the house. They set up a studio on the second floor of Gelman Library, complete with five cameras, a makeup artist, lights hanging from the ceiling and media in an adjourning room. This was the real deal. We would be sitting with one of the most powerful women in the world and could ask her anything we wanted.
Lilly Lamboy, a sophomore at Smith College and a fellow panelist with Pelosi Tuesday, made national news when she asked Clinton about his stance on gay marriage. On Tuesday, Lamboy asked Pelosi about her plans for tangible changes in human rights in China. Michael O’Brien, a senior at the University of Michigan, forced Pelosi into a corner about her trust in Petraeus. Laura Plantholt, a sophomore at the University of San Francisco, told Pelosi it was necessary to endorse a candidate. And myself, the editor of this very newspaper here in Foggy Bottom, got Pelosi to say there would be no genocide in Iraq if American troops left.
It was terrifically exciting. But on top of the glamor, free food and attention, we found something that I always doubted: we matter. Not only the four political junkies from around the country that were chosen to question the California Democrat. Students our age are taken seriously.
Maybe it isn’t so odd. During a short break, Pelosi turned to us and told us that we have the opportunity to make a difference in this election. She spoke of the Internet and how it is empowering our generation to make a difference. She knows that college students now have power. With blogs and college newspapers that electronically transcend the bounds of campus, 21-year olds have a new voice.
Much of what Pelosi had to say was ambiguous. By the time she finished answering a question, I had forgotten what we asked. We were prepared for stock answers and that is what we got.
But this experience highlighted something that is becoming clear in this election: we matter. We all matter.