Kerry daughter comes to campus

by Linzi Sheldon | 10/28/04 5:00am

Potential first daughter Vanessa Kerry stepped in for her father in Hanover Wednesday, marching across campus to encourage Dartmouth students to choose Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry over President Bush on Nov. 2.

Accompanied by campaign supporters wearing Kerry stickers and holding signs, Kerry urged students to take their friends to the polls and elect her father as she concluded a march that began at Sigma Delta sorority with a short speech and question-and-answer session at Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

"Young people have a reputation of not being involved and educated [about elections]," Kerry told the audience. She emphasized the impact of the youth vote, showing that students in the past have been invested in past presidential races.

"My sister and I try to be an example of young people not being apathetic about what's happening," she said, noting that many of her own friends remain unengaged in politics.

Kerry said she has been on a non-stop, sleep-deprived schedule since she joined her father's campaign in July. In stops at colleges across the nation, Kerry has talked to students in town hall-style meetings with question and answer sessions.

Kerry admitted that she still feels shy around students, especially in situations where attention is focused solely on her. On Wednesday night, Kerry presented a down-to-earth, likeable persona, spending a few minutes in Novack Cafe posing with students for pictures and discussing the Boston Red Sox before continuing on to SAE.

Kerry said she has not been disillusioned by the process of campaigning but has been upset by character assassinations on her father. And although Sen. Kerry has been accused of lacking charisma, his daughter described him as genuine and appealing candidate.

"He's a very real guy, a straight-talker. It's shocking to me how hip he is. He's so hip, it's scares me," she said, laughing and calling him "cooler" than she. "He knows pop culture; he windsurfs, skis, snowboards, plays the guitar -- he's got the style down. It's funny."

She also described her father as a man with a truly idealistic view that tomorrow can be better, with the integrity to tell the truth and the willingness to give straight answers.

For Kerry, campaigning has been a "funny thing," as she has gotten used to the new language of policy and politics. With a self-deprecating tone, she admitted her initial ignorance about policy issues such as Social Security. But when a member of the audience at SAE suggested that the possibility of a draft had become a dramatic non-issue, however, Kerry strongly disagreed.

"I think people are legitimately scared about it," Kerry said. "I don't think it's an invented issue."

She referred to what she called the ongoing "backdoor draft" of National Guard members that recalls soldiers at the end of their designated service. According to Kerry, the U.S. government should support its troops, but should never reinstitute the draft, even if overextended.

When questioned about her father's stance on gay marriage, Kerry called it a generational issue. She emphasized her father's support for civil unions and equal rights on all levels, whether it is sexual orientation or ethnicity.

Kerry, who was never involved in her father's past campaigns, said it took some personal interactions to motivate her participation in this race. She described meeting patients in medical school who were deciding whether to pay for their electric bill or for prescription drugs.

"I love my dad and believe in him a lot, and this is the most important race of his lifetime," she said. "It's a real honor to fight alongside him."

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