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Student to student

Tabitha Lazenby, Record correspondent

Students from across the country have gathered in the Mile High City for the 2008 Washington Center Program at the Democratic National Convention and thanks to the gracious support of the Utah State University Honors Program, I just happen to be one of them!

The Washington Center provides real life work experience for students to prepare them for lives of achievement and civic engagement. Since arriving on Monday, our schedules have been packed with seminars, political lectures, and a variety of media presentations. Our Academic Director, Dr. Tom Cronin, calls the upcoming weeks "Camp Politics," but trust me, this is not your run-of the-mill summer camp.

In the past few hours, I personally met and shook hands with, arguably, most powerful woman in the country, U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). I have attended a reception at INVESCO field where Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is scheduled to give his acceptance speech, I learned that I would be working with a mainstream news station during the convention, watched as countless protesters tried to sabotage the presence and remarks of Speaker Pelosi during a book signing, attended a lecture by the Special Agent in charge of the United States Secret Service, David O Connor and was honored to hear one of my favorite journalists, Mr. T.R. Reed recount his many years following political campaigns for the Washington Journal.

As a student who is fascinated by these unprecedented times and the historical significance of the 2008 election, my main question is whether or not the Democrats will be able to pull it off?

As American citizens we want the perfect candidate, but as Dr. Cronin, the Faculty Director of the DNC program said Monday, The American public wants Kennedy, Mother Teresa, and Mandela all in one. We are looking for God on a good day.

As the convention begins, Barack Obama will be faced with all of those contradictions. U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) ran a strong campaign for the nomination, but essentially failed. She was considered too rough. But when she shed a few tears, she immediately became a weakling. Interestingly, some still believe Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee if Florida and Michigan hadn’t broken party rules, leaving her supporters highly divided.

Obama has been heavily criticized by the McCain campaign for his lack of experience with foreign policy, but he appears to be very popular among the international community. Others are asking whether Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama’s Republican rival, can manage an eight- year presidency well into his 80s?

Through online networking and the Internet, young people seem to have embraced Obama, but he has yet to convince the older voters.

This convention will prove to be the do-or-die of Obama’s presidential campaign. Dr. Cronin observed that Obama will have to stay on message. He must strive to unite the party and win over hard core Clinton supporters, and he must be issue-oriented in order to combat the super star syndrome that has plagued in him in recent days.

Obama has one big convention week cut out for him and the result will certainly be telling of his ability to manage a variety of distinct challenges. This experience will not open my eyes to the political process in the United States of America, but will allow me to look at issues from a new perspective. As Maggie Haas, a graduate student from University of Texas at Tyler said, "I don’t really have any expectations as I head into the convention, all I know is that it will be great."

Tabitha Lazenby is a graduate of South Summit High School and is currently a senior at Utah State University. She is majoring in international studies, has studied in Nicaragua and Uganda and recently participated in an Rotary International program in Kenya.


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