Voice of Youth
Ashlee Hasselman, at the age of 18, one of 2,509 delegates at the Republican National Convention, is drawing the sort of attention that many activists would surely covet. It's the first convention for the Pacific, Wash., native and recent high school graduate, and according to Republican Party officials, the youngest delegate. As such, she's drawing waves of notice from the 15,000 reporters on hand who are on the lookout for new angles.
Voice of Experience
On the other side of the cavernous hall, Charles Peavyhouse, 75, a retired principal from Tennessee, is as seasoned a delegate as Ms. Hasselman is green. Mr. Peavyhouse, an alternate delegate who worked in Chattanooga-area schools for almost 40 years, is attending his sixth GOP convention. Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, San Diego, and Philadelphia: he can remember all of them, though sometimes recalling which presidential candidate was nominated at which convention can be difficult. He's a longtime party activist, who's worked on several Republican campaigns in east Tennessee—including those of current U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander—in which his candidates generally fared well.
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Dressed in a blue blazer and blue baseball cap adorned with Bush-Cheney buttons, Mr. Peavyhouse ranked education about fourth in terms of the issues Republicans needed to be addressing at the convention—behind the economy, the war in Iraq, and the threat of terrorism. Like other members of the party, he had heard some grumbling among more conservative Republicans in New York about the federal government's heavy role in enforcing the No Child Left Behind Act. But a convention is not the time for GOP loyalists to question the president's policies in schools, he emphasized.
"There's concern out there, but we don't want a floor fight," Mr. Peavyhouse said. "We don't want to put our dirty laundry out there for the country to see."
The retiree had heard complaints from teachers and others in the Chattanooga-area public schools about the testing requirements of the federal law. But Mr. Peavyhouse believed the law's requirements would force schools and districts to improve in a crucial area: reducing their dropout rates. "It sets high standards," he said. "A lot of schools aren't going to be able to reach those standards, but they're going to get better."
Ms. Hasselman agreed. She became more knowledgeable about the law—and other aspects of the GOP platform—after she was nominated as a county, state, and eventually a national delegate to the Republican convention. The young delegate, who spent spare moments taking in sights such as Ellis Island, Rockefeller Center, and the subway system, admits it was a challenge explaining the purpose of her trip to some of her less politically inclined teenage friends back home. "They were like, 'What are you doing? Where are you going? What are you going to be doing there?'" she said.
If they had tuned into MSNBC early this week, they might have figured it out. Ms. Hasselman stunned her mother, Andrea Cade, with a phone call giving her 10 minutes advance notice of her appearance on the network. The next day, Ms. Cade spoke with pride about her daughter's participation in the convention.
"She's just amazing in the way that she plows through everything to get what she wants," said Ms. Cade, from the family's home in Washington state. "She gets a mission and she works toward it."
Where others at the convention were offering Ms. Hasselman publicity, Mr. Peavyhouse had some advice for the youngest delegate, assuming she was interested in staying involved in politics and campaigns as long as he has.
"Get acquainted with the right people in politics from her state," Mr. Peavyhouse said. "Get to know who the pushers and the shovers in the party are." Then, recalling one successful campaign he worked on, he added with a chuckle, "That's what made me the fair-haired boy."