Politics has become such an ugly world. I would say the majority of people don’t like discussing it, watching it, or want anything to do with it. I, on the other hand, have been interested in all things politics since I was around eight years old. Instead of playing sports or video games, I was looking through picture books about the presidents. Shortly after I started reading about them, I was able to memorize the presidents in order, which I felt a shot of confidence for the first time.
What piqued my interest in politics was learning about who our leaders are, who is making decisions that impact us. This was during the 2004 campaign of George W. Bush vs. John Kerry, so this was the first election I have ever paid attention to. I remember being really excited even though I had little knowledge of the actual issues. To me, this was better than TV. I still feel the same way, as this is real life, these are real people. These politicians can impact tuition, state and federal taxes, immigration, healthcare, war, etc., so I just always found it fascinating.
During the 2004 election, I came up with the idea of doing a mock election with my fourth grade class, where each student would write down who they wanted to win. I personally loved that I did this, as it really shows nothing has changed with my love of politics and elections. I even went through a phrase of horribly drawing each president for my teacher, but looking back maybe that was a little much, but he loved it and apparently hung them on his fridge. I often think about why I was different than the other kids my age and had different interests than them at the time. Maybe I was more mature than my other classmates. I had no siblings or family members around my age. I had divorced parents since I was four years old. I was constantly around other adults, so I think that had to do why I developed an interest in adult topics.
I remember it being Christmas of 2005, and I received autographed photos of former Presidents Reagan, Bush, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. The photo of me holding it is lost, but I still have the signed photo along with my other signed items from various politicians. In 2006, I started a hobby of collecting autographs and one of the first people I had written to was then-Senator Hillary Clinton, who represented New York. I was around 11 at the time, and there were rumors of her running for president in 2008. I really liked her when I first saw her on Ellen. She appeared to be a tough and strong woman, and it was the radical change I wanted to see in our politics. I sent her a few emails and after I got home from vacation, I received a letter back. Hillary Clinton had written me saying “Dear Ryan. I have been so pleased to receive your emails. It is so important for young people to be interested in government and the people who are elected to serve in our government. I hope that you always remain interested and continue to share your ideas and concerns with New York’s and the nation’s political leaders. With best wishes for an enjoyable summer and wonderful school year, I am, Sincerely yours, Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
Unfortunately she did not win the 2008 primary, but I was still following the rest of the election when I was in the eighth grade. Over time I received signatures from former presidents, senators, JFK assassination witnesses, and other big names in history.
When President Obama won in 2008, I was still interested in politics, but I was not constantly following the coverage as I do now. I don’t remember ever putting on the news. I just remember the highlights talked about the most, such as Osama Bin Laden getting killed, Sandy Hook, the controversial Iran nuclear deal, the tan suit, etc. From 2008-2015, I pretty much only put on the news when there was an election. A presidential election was the most exciting night every four years for me.
I was following the 2012 election but not as much, but I remember rooting for Newt Gingrich to win; looking back, that was a mistake. Watching the election with Obama vs. Romney seemed so civil compared to what we saw in 2016. One bad clip of Romney ruined his chances, while the current president says 10x worse, multiple times a week. The political environment and the way we talk about politics has drastically changed.
In June 2015, I was sitting in my public speaking class at Suffolk County Community College. The professor was discussing and showing the clip of Trump’s announcement. We were all laughing at the thought of him running. I even suggested no Republican could ever win if they didn’t approve of gay marriage and pro-choice.. I thought we had come such a long way but he was the radical change that many people wanted. He wasn’t a polished and scripted politician. He was mesmerizing to watch. Ever since the first Republican debate, I would watch the coverage back-to-back from CNN to Fox News. I consider myself a centrist democrat and I see things from both sides. If one party did something wrong, I would criticize the other party if they did the same thing.
As of now, I am following politics more than ever. I follow hundreds of journalists and news stations on Twitter, I have the news on 24/7, and I am constantly flooded with the latest news and different takes on the same story. I know it’s not healthy, but I still find it the most important to watch more than anything else. Ironically, I am trying not to be too political with my personal views with this essay, but I must say it is the most crucial time to be paying attention to what is going on in our government and our leaders. The little child in me is happy that I am still keeping up with everything. I encourage young people, especially college students, to be aware of what is going on with politicians, as their decisions might impact you for decades to come. Young people are the lowest group to get out and vote and I can’t stress enough how important it is to do so.