By Kathryn McConnell
Washington — Three young delegates gearing up to attend their political party’s 2012 national conventions are excited about their roles in choosing candidates to the U.S. presidency.
“To be part of the electoral process is important to me,” said Sodiqa Williams, 29, from Chicago. She will be an Illinois statewide delegate to the Democratic National Convention September 3–6 in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’m looking forward to meeting other delegates who I’m sure will have many different perspectives on the issues,” she said.
Rachel Hoff, also 29, currently lives in Washington. She will attend the Republican National Convention August 27–30 in Tampa, Florida, representing the District of Columbia. “I look forward to being part of history,” she said.
At the Democratic Convention, more than 5,000 delegates and alternates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories will endorse President Obama and Vice President Biden as their candidates for a second four-year term. At the Republican Convention, 2,125 delegates, backed by 2,125 alternates, are expected to nominate Mitt Romney for president and a yet- to-be-determined vice presidential candidate.
One of the youngest delegates among her state’s 50 elected Democratic Convention delegates and alternates is 19-year-old Anna Langthorn of Edmond, Oklahoma.
“It’s going to be an exciting convention, both getting to be there and being part of history,” Langthorn said. She also looks forward to seeing many of the other young delegates from other states she has gotten to know through her involvement in Young Democrats of America. The group encompasses Democrats under age 36.
Approximately 15,000 journalists from around the world will also attend the conventions. Their coverage will help people in the United States and throughout the world understand the visions and commitments made by the presidential nominees.
POLITICAL ACTIVISM STARTS EARLY
All three of the young delegates developed an interest in politics at an early age and have parents who support their ongoing political involvement.
Williams, who is biracial, grew up in the Midwestern city of of Muncie, Indiana, with parents who encouraged her to excel and be aware of current issues. Her mother, who had polio as a child, worked every day at a hospital laboratory despite the physical challenge. For that determination, her daughter calls her “a hero.” Williams’ father, a retired policeman, also inspired her. “He encouraged me to pay attention to the news and be engaged in politics,” she said.
“You need someone like that in your life. My awareness increases every day,” she said.
She became active in politics while a student at Princeton University and later working on environmental issues for then-Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn (now governor of Illinois). As a lawyer, she now works as an advocate for environmental issues in Chicago. She hopes to run for office some day and continue her support for environmental protection, affordable education, prison reform and fighting poverty and human trafficking. “My job would be to serve the public, my state and our nation,” she said.
“It’s a real honor to be put into a position and have a voice,” Williams said of the role of party delegate.
Hoff, raised by civilian parents who worked on military posts, watched her parents as they voted. As a student at Tufts University, she volunteered during the 2000 Republican presidential campaign and in Romney’s 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts.
She currently serves as director of government relations and outreach for the Foreign Policy Initiative, a nonprofit advocacy group, and is active in the Washington chapter of Young Republicans. She formerly worked as an aide to a Republican representative to Congress and for a Middle East-focused policy development group promoting democracy and regional security. In 2003, she was named Young Republican of the Year. She plans to be actively involved in Romney’s campaign after the convention.
"When you’re engaged [politically] you spend your free time on politics,” she said.
Langthorn, a student at the University of Central Oklahoma, has been a Young Democrat since secondary school. She said, “It has always seemed important to me that I participate in the decisions that affect my life.” She also is interested in promoting awareness of lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual issues.
She is proud the Oklahoma caucus promotes youth inclusion and set a goal of selecting at least four youth delegates out of a total of 50 who range in age from 18 to early 70s. The caucus exceeded its goal, electing seven youth delegates.
“Youth inclusion is important,” she said.