Watching the Speeches With the Kid Who Would be President
Last night, I watched the main speeches from the comfortable confines of the McColl Center for Visual Art. It was a viewing party held by The Atlantic and National Journal magazines. Truthfully, the plan was to start there and then head to the arena in time for Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton's speeches, but once Twitter told me that access was becoming limited to the arena, I settled in.
Glad I did. It was a small room, with a big screen on a stage, a few round tables in the front, and a bar and high-top tables in the back. The cool kids (i.e. various magazine staffers. Or at least, based on the chunky glasses, they looked like magazine staffers) hung in back. Exciteable Democrats occupied the tables. I sat front and center, next to Catherine Looper, fifty, and Brady Manning, twenty-one, of New Hampshire. Catherine's son is a page with the New Hampshire delegation. Brady's dad is a delegate. Brady was in the arena the first night, but opted for a more relaxed environment for Wednesday night.
Within a few minutes of meeting Brady, he told me, earnestly, that he planned to run for "the big job" one day.
"You mean President," I asked?
"That's the plan."
I asked him why. "Because there are a lot of big problems in this country that need fixing."
"And I'm tired of politicians who are only looking out for themselves and not for the people."
"And there are a lot of them."
Brady is a senior in college in Dublin, Ireland. ("Global perspective," he said.) He plans to go to law school in the states. So he's not some tween who dreams of being president one day. He's at the point in his life where he's making actual career goals. And his career goal is to run for, or be, President of the United States. Don't meet a whole lot of twenty-one-year-olds with that stated career goal.
Kid knew his stuff. He provided insightful, if partisan, commentary throughout the night. He compared the Charlotte convention to the 2008 convention in Denver, which he attended as a page (seemed a little more chaotic on the floor here, he said). His favorite president is Teddy Roosevelt.
But it's clear that Bill Clinton is on the short list. He and Catherine were transfixed by Clinton's speech. While the cool kids played it, well, cool, and other tables watched quietly, clapping once in a while, Brady and Catherine, cheered, laughed, and applauded at all the right places. Their enthusiasm was heightened by the fact that one of CNN's cameramen appeared to have been stationed directly in front of the New Hampshire delegation. Almost, if not all, of New Hampshire's 34 delegates got significant airtime during Clinton's speech. Brady and Catherine knew each and every one of them. "He fixed my glasses yesterday! Catherine shouted gleefully. "I smoked cigars with her outside the hotel!" "Alejandro!"
Brady kept count of the number of times CNN showed the New Hampshire delegation. Eventually, he had to start using his phone to keep track. Twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two.
Finally, near the end, they showed Brady's dad. You could see the pride on Brady's face. Catherine gestured exictedly at the screen.
But still, Michael, Catherine's son, the page, had not made an appearance. We joked that he would be the encore.
Clinton, wrapped up, finally. The camera panned around the floor, showing the crowd chanting "Four more years!" Suddenly, just before cutting away for analysis by the talking heads, the screen filled with the image of a teenage boy in a yellow shirt festooned with buttons. He was chanting and pumping his fist. Michael Looper.
Catherine was beside herself. Brady was happy too, and he couldn't wait to go meet up with his dad. I snapped a cell phone pic, and they headed out.