If you've been reading the editorial pages and our department's blog, The Daily Views, for the last few weeks you've seen the name David McKee.
The Waxhaw teen was our eyes and ears at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., the last week in August and the first week in September respectively. He was among several teens nationwide attending the political conventions as part of the Junior Statesmen of America. That's a nationwide, nonpartisan political organization for high school students.
David's enthusiasm and excitement during his two-week adventure was infectious, and it shone through in his daily dispatches. You can still find them online at www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/blogs_columnists.
I wasn't surprised. I met David last spring when he came to the Observer as part of the Youth Civics 101 class I talked to.
David, 15, and his mom Carol came up to me afterward, and I still smile in remembering. He was exuberant and serious – about politics?!!! And he was oh, so polite. He told me then that he planned to be a U.S. senator.
That's also when the home-schooled teen told me he was attending the political conventions as part of the Junior Statesmen program. He volunteered to send us daily dispatches. It was a great experience for him and for us, and we hope for you readers.
Things didn't always go smoothly. His computer crashed after he arrived in Denver, and he had problems with his cell phone. So his mom had to file his first dispatch.
But he persevered, and said he had a fascinating time – as his commentaries attest. Some were earnest and naïve; others questioning and skeptical. Through his dispatches, he showed the value of getting young people civically engaged. He saw the system up close. It wasn't always pretty, but he said the experience was invaluable. We asked him to sum up his adventure. Here's what he said:
“What surprised me about both conventions was the astounding amount of people who were there. I did not expect that so many people would be there. It was staggering to hear that at the Democratic National Convention, they gave out almost 20,000 press passes.
“I was also surprised by the people who were attending – all the celebrities that came to both conventions. Also surprising was how George Bush gave the thumbs up in his speech to John McCain. I saw Stevie Wonder at the DNC. I could go on and on but I will just say that it was amazing who was there. Just being there was dazzling.”
“Most of the people at the speakers' forums that I attended, arranged by Junior Statesmen of America, were impressive. Members of Congress came just to speak to us, a group of teens! A North Carolina state senator, I think from my own district, was there to talk to us. At both conventions the speakers were well-known, key players.
“At the Republican National Convention, the speaker that stood out was Arianna Huffington (of the Huffington Post blog). At the DNC, Andrew Romanoff, the speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, was a motivational force for young people to become politically active.
“The speaker that impressed me the most was Al Gore. He brought global warming awareness to the American people. Before he came along, not a lot of people were aware of the issue or cared about it.
“If Al Gore had not brought this issue to awareness, and had he not been so motivated to solve this problem, the climate could be heading toward a path of destruction. He has made his mark on history, and so has made his mark on the DNC.”
“These two conventions that I have attended have been very educational, and I am glad that I went to them.
“I learned that in politics the mud will be slung, and the accusations will fly. But we have such an engaging political system that for me no intervention, rehabilitation or anything else will ever take me away from political engagement.”