The Presidential Selfie Challenge has been quite the journey. What started off as “hey, wouldn’t it be fun to try and get selfies with all the candidates?” soon turned into the ultimate educational adventure for my two daughters.
From July 2 when Emma (15) snapped her first selfie with Gov. Chris Christie and the selfie challenge was proposed by Addy (17), the girls have seen and listened to all of the 22 candidates who are running for the office of President. (Although Jim Webb dropped out before a selfie, by way of twitter they’ve offered him pumpkin bread if he would come to NH for a selfie – offer still stands.)
Along the way, the girls have learned about education in America, women’s rights, the role of the United States with regard to ISIS (they paid particular attention to this as a brother is in the Army), the economy, energy consumption, and reining in college costs – to name only a few topics. They’ve have been to parades, town halls, backyard BBQs, and have even had ice cream with a candidate.
As more and more people started following the girls’ adventure, it became clear that this had turned into a teaching opportunity. They started getting asked questions about what it was like to meet the candidates and just how did they manage to meet so many? Not only were the selfie girls teaching the world about the candidates but they were also sharing what it was like to live in the First in the Nation Primary state where there are days when you literally can’t walk down a street without bumping into a candidate.
As a parent, I’ve been able to spend most of the summer and fall with my teen daughters. Usually teen girls don’t want anything to do with parents and anyone who has teens knows what a precious gift I was given in this project.
I’ve also had a front seat on what my daughters’ thinking process was. I was able to hear what was important and which topics they were willing to compromise on.
Everyone has a litmus test for their vote. For some it’s religious concerns, for others it’s the economy or moving to sustainable energy. For Addy (the one who will be able to vote in the general) her litmus test for every single candidate was “Are they Gay-OK?”
In a time when mainstream TV shows have gay characters, where many of her friends in high school are gay, and where being gay is just “not a big deal” it was disconcerting for Addy to hear any Presidential candidate say that one of the first things they would do as president would be to change the Supreme court vote and return marriage to a union that is only between a man and a woman.
For Addy it came down to “as go gay (and transgender) people, so go I.” She simply didn’t want any of her friends to have less rights than she had.
Likability was certainly important. Some of the candidates come across as more sincere and genuine than others. The ones that didn’t make that important positive first impression were soon crossed off the list with the interesting exception of Jeb Bush. Their first introduction to him (other than a quick selfie at a parade) was watching him at the first Republican debate. To put it politely, his performance was less than stellar.
However, when the girls got to hear him in person at a local town hall they got an entirely different impression of him. Addy and Emma left that event saying that they “could live with Bush as President.”
If anything, it shows that you need to do your homework when deciding which candidate to vote for. Not all may be as it appears.
It has never been a secret that the girls leaned toward the Democrats. In fact, in 2008 the Hillary campaign used photos of the girls in their literature and if you’re very observant you’ll notice that the girls are at the end of Hillary’s Dorothy ad (I swear this was a coincidence, I was as surprised as anyone else.) But that was 8 years ago, the girls had been young and their opinions might have changed.
That’s the thing, in our house you can vote for whomever you want as long as you can justify your vote. We have several Hillary supporters, a Bernie supporter and one who is trying to find a Republican for whom to vote. During the primaries, our dinner conversations are, as you can imagine, quite lively.
Addy was greatly impressed with Martin O’Malley and he was her top choice until she saw Hillary at a town hall. She ended up choosing Hillary because of her vast experience, grasp of topics, ideas about teaching, record with women’s rights, and yes that she “knew her stuff” and just appeared so “presidential.” Addy and Emma felt at home with Hillary because Hillary said many of the things that Marc and I have been teaching all of our kids throughout the years.
Both times the girls met Hillary, she talked to them privately, asked questions and laughed with them – HUGE points on likeability there. Both girls recognized that although she was an accomplished and powerful person she was still relatable as a person and a role model. Although this challenge was about selfies, the girls were absolutely thrilled to get their NH Democratic Convention tickets signed by Hillary. It’s one of their most prized possessions.
On the Republican side, there were a few missteps from the candidates that cost them the girls’ consideration up front. If you are going to run for President, you need to pay attention to detail.
- Marco Rubio’s watch was broken and the dial hands swung around each time he moved his arm. “Maybe it’s a family heirloom,” I suggested.
- Carly Fiorina gave her speech in a local backyard. Before she started speaking she took her shoes off saying that she had walked around in them all day and they hurt. She then walked around the grass in her stockings. “She wants to be President and she doesn’t know how to buy comfortable shoes?” asked Emma.
- Bobby Jindal told a “cute” story about how his son back talked to a teacher while in a math class because he knew the answer to a question, but he didn’t prove it using the required steps. “The answer’s right because it’s right,” he told his teacher. Emma turned to me, “Mom, if we had said that to our teacher you would have killed us.”
While I might not have killed them, I certainly would have made them apologize.
- Some of the candidates were a little “too old” which actually translated to they were out of touch. One candidate had less than 100 followers on Twitter when we went to see him. We had people in our family follow him just so that he could pass that magic 100 mark.
You want to be President and you don’t have twitter followers, Instagram or snapchat? It’s your choice, but know that it will cost you the (very) young vote.
Don’t get me wrong, even with the above missteps, the girls still learned something from *every* single candidate.
- Rubio has a great story about his family immigrating and his parents being hard workers.
- Carly’s story of Lady Justice and Lady Liberty epitomizes “women-power.”
- After listening to Bobby Jindal, Emma asked me “what’s common core?” Guess what we talked about on the ride home?
- And even for some of the older candidates who weren’t active on social media, the girls still respected their military and political experience.
In listening to all of the candidates, Addy and Emma realized that it’s not an “us or them” situation. The girls found themselves agreeing with many of the points that the Republicans made and they found that they disagreed with some of what the Democrats had proposed. It gave them hope that perhaps both parties could end up working together.
*If* the girls had to choose a Republican, they would choose Gov. Chris Christie. Addy ended up listening to him 3 times and Emma 2 and this is what they liked about him:
- He came across as sincere and genuine.
- His mother story is one of the best origin stories around and speaks directly to your heart.
- He’s got great legal experience.
- He came across as fair. Several times he said that although he might not agree with a law, it was the law and he was obligated to follow it.
- He showed tolerance. When he was challenged with a bible quote Christie had a fantastic reply along the lines of “that’s how you interpret the bible, that’s not necessarily how I interpret it.”
But in the end, Christie is no Hillary.
On Thursday December 3, the girls will take an “endorsement selfie” (clearly a new term has been defined as a result of this project) with Hillary Clinton at the Women’s Economic Opportunity Summit in Manchester, NH.
It’s the end of a long, exciting, and educational journey where two New Hampshire teens learned about the 2016 Presidential candidates one selfie at a time.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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