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Teen shares excitement of being up front at presidential campaign rallies

Ohio Gov. John Kasich with YJI's Justin Hern (YJI)

WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – It’s primary season here in Connecticut. With an important election coming up, many candidates have come to the Nutmeg State to give their reasons as to why they should be elected president.

Kasich’s “national debt clock” on display at his rally. (Justin Hern/YJI)

Connecticut voters go to the polls today, April 26, to cast ballots in the presidential primary. Within the past week, I attended nearby events for both a Democratic candidate and a Republican candidate. On Friday, I attended a town hall for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican candidate, in Glastonbury.

Former President Bill Clinton in Hartford. (Justin Hern/YJI)

On Monday in Hartford, I saw former President Bill Clinton speak at a campaign event for his wife, Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state who is hoping to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Kasich led his own rally, while Clinton had supporters speak on her behalf. Besides the former president, Gabby Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman spoke, along with Giffords’ astronaut husband Mark Kelly.
First of all, by sheer numbers the two events were very different. The Kasich town hall was attended by roughly 1,300 people.
The rally supporting Clinton was a much smaller event, perhaps due to lack of publicity.

Also, the Kasich event was much more casual. He told stories about his life, like how he met President Richard Nixon as a young man, and then answered questions from the crowd. He even danced to the song “Shut Up and Dance With Me” as he was coming out onto the stage.

Some of the crowd at the Kasich rally in Glastonbury, Connecticut last week. (Justin Hern/YJI)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich in Glastonbury, Conn. last week. (Justin Hern/YJI)

At Clinton’s rally, President Clinton, Giffords, and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, as well as other notable Clinton supporters mainly focused on the issue of gun violence. President Clinton also spoke at length about how his wife is knowledgeable and strong on many other issues.

On the other hand, both events illustrated similarities by the diversity of the crowds in attendance. Each rally featured a mix of different ages, ranging from young, first-time voters to older, more experienced voters. Both of the featured speakers, Kasich and President Clinton, took the time to say hello to some of the crowd after the main event had concluded.

I had the honor to meet both of these incredible men. One rarely gets the chance to meet a former president. Shaking hands with President Clinton was an honor that I will never forget. He has an aura of experience and authority about him and I found him to be a compelling speaker who truly believes in what his wife stands for in this election.

Kasich is a kind, intelligent, and likeable person, and I was very starstruck when I met him. I appreciated his repeating the idea that the election this year is not about Republican against Democrat, but rather Americans joining hands and working together.

This was my first time being on the campaign trail for any candidate, and it was truly a life-changing experience.

Justin Hern is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Hartford Monday. (Justin Hern/YJI)


Vendors had these buttons for sale at the Bernie Sanders rally in New Haven on Sunday. (Mugdha Gurram/YJI)

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event Monday in Hartford for his wife, Hillary Clinton. (Justin Hern/YJI)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to a large crowd on the New Haven Green Sunday night. (Mugdha Gurram/YJI)

Hillary Clinton hosting a panel discussion on gun violence last week in Hartford. (Kiernan Majerus-Collins/YJI)


YJI reporter Justin Hern with President Bill Clinton behind him at an event for Hillary Clinton in Hartford on Monday. (YJI)