At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I had two run-ins with adults who refused to take me seriously and felt they should be allowed to exercise prior restraint over my stories simply because I was young.
It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. But there wasn’t a bloody thing I could do about it, and that frustrated me to no end. If I could have snapped my fingers and aged 23 years overnight, I would have done it.
Then something amazing happened. On a sunny autumn afternoon in late October 1992, at a press conference following a get-out-the-vote rally I was covering in Carbondale, Illinois, Hillary Rodham Clinton looked into my then-17-year-old eyes and answered my question. She did not talk down to me. She did not ask to read the article before it went to press just to make sure I hadn’t misquoted her. She did not treat me like a little girl playing dress-up with a press pass and a reporter’s notebook. She simply responded to my question — just as she would (and did) for any other member of the press.
I rewound my tape of the event and listened to it over and over, and when Bill Clinton won the election a few days later, I taped the front page of the local daily newspaper to my bedroom wall, where it hung until I moved out of my parents’ house my senior year of college.
As far as I was concerned, that press conference was the journalistic equivalent of a bat mitzvah or a quinceanera — it was the day I officially became a grownup, and I remember every minute of it, from SIU professor Barb Brown greeting me warmly before the rally to press secretary Lisa Caputo collecting everybody’s press passes and taking them to the future first lady to be autographed afterward.
Toward the beginning of the rally, a local band called St. Stephen’s Blues played a Bob Dylan cover. I’ve thought of that song often during this campaign season:
And while we’re on the subject of great songs from that campaign cycle:
If don’t like the way things are going in Washington and want them to change, get off your duff and vote.
If you love the way things are going in Washington and want them to continue, get off your duff and vote. (WARNING: Sound file starts automatically.)
If you care at all about your country, get off your butt and vote.