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Melissa Kaufler: Ten years of waiting well worth it

Democratic Voices

Posted: November 8, 2010 9:29 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.

I love politics. Any one of my 525 Facebook friends could testify in favor of that statement (whether or not they like what I post is a different story).

Politics have been my passion since I was 8 years old and fervently supporting Al Gore, and that very passion has only grown stronger over the years. Having turned 18 this year, I could have not have been more thrilled to be able to participate in all the excitement of election season.

Leading up to all the hype on Election Day, various politicians were appearing all over Southern California. I was lucky enough to meet some of those people whose pins I proudly wore. Within 10 days, I met some of the people I admire most in politics.

Oct. 15 was the day I met Bill Clinton — easily a moment I’ll never forget. He was speaking on behalf of Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown at UCLA to excite young voters like myself.

The former president is always charming and charismatic, which showed even more in person.

When he was done speaking, the crowd was cheering as the three politicians went around shaking hands. Brown and Newsom didn’t stay long, but the former president did, and I intended to stick around until I shook his hand.

As he moved closer to my spot in line, I became increasingly nervous.

When he was close enough, I understood why he is so loved. He is simply an alluring individual.

I blurted out, “Mr. President?” and amid the chaos, he looked right at me. I asked, “Can I have a hug?”

I was shaking. He smiled and said “Yes” as he put his arms around me. While hugging him, he said, “God bless you.” I was in disbelief and completely excited because of what had just happened.

I was informed one day in advance of an amazing opportunity to meet Sen. John Kerry at the Democratic Party’s mid-L.A. office. Though I was going to miss class on Oct. 20, there was no way I could refuse an offer to meet the candidate I so tirelessly supported during the 2004 elections.

I arrived early enough to sit in the front row. He spoke for 10 minutes about how crucial it was that we re-elect Barbara Boxer. It was strange to see him with my own eyes.

Because I was in front, I was able to meet him immediately after he finished speaking. He shook my hand and told me he liked my donkey pin. I smiled and said, “You know, the day after the 2004 election, I stayed home from school and cried.”
He smiled, put his hands on my shoulders and gave me a sympathetic look that was followed by a hug.

On Oct. 24, to make a long day short, I met Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris and Barbara Boxer at the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley’s office. As a young Democrat, I found myself in political heaven.

The next day I was at a book signing in Westwood, where I met former President Jimmy Carter. With little time to speak with him, I quickly asked, “Mr. President, I’m going to spend the rest of my life in politics. Do you have any advice for me?”

Though it was simple and true, it was very special coming from him. He said, “Love the people you serve, and always be honest with them.”

In 10 days, I had met these politicians I admire. But they weren’t just politicians anymore — they were people with distinct personalities and quirks.

Barbara Boxer is actually quite the comedian, Kamala Harris is a great speaker and Jimmy Carter is one of the kindest people in the world, just to name a few of their qualities.

For the first time last Tuesday, I was able to vote. To sum it up, it was one of the most exciting things I had ever done.

I had literally waited 10, long years to obtain this right, and had been forced to sit on the sidelines as candidates and propositions passed me by.

No matter how hard I had campaigned, my voice was never truly heard until Nov. 2, 2010.

For once in my life, I was actually able to vote for the candidates whose pins I proudly wore.

And I surely can’t wait to do it all again.

Valencia resident Melissa Kaufler is a Hart High School graduate and political-science major at College of the Canyons.

Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.



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