Logging on to Politics
Like any typical high school freshman, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins is constantly busy. When he's not in school, he's studying. When he's not studying, he's playing the oboe, double bass, or cello.
But unlike the majority of his peers, the 14-year-old from Sitka, Alaska, also spends two to six hours a day participating in national politics.
As the "Top DeanLinker" for the Howard Dean presidential campaign, Mr. Kreiss-Tomkins has introduced the most new supporters to the official network for the former Vermont governor, who is campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. As of Dec. 3, 479 supporters had joined the network through him.
Because he's so young, Mr. Kreiss-Tomkins' involvement has attracted the attention of the national media, but he dislikes the emphasis on his age.
"People, when aware of your age, don't usually value your opinions as much," he said in an e-mail. "You also can't fund raise or organize fund- raising. I usually don't talk about my age at all to any of the people I work with, although recently it has gotten out, I guess you could say."
In addition to linking new Dean supporters, Mr. Kreiss-Tomkins has contributed his computer skills to the campaign, which has increasingly used the Internet to organize campaign efforts and raise money.
Mr. Kreiss-Tomkins creates databases of important contacts for the campaign and runs the "Alaska for Dean" Web site. He also coordinates meetings for supporters in his hometown.
The teenager said his parents are not politically active and that he had never been involved with politics before. Yet, the young Dean advocate joined the campaign in December 2002 hoping to promote change in the nation's political environment.
"Every day, I would check the news and see how our country was just going back in time ... and I was just disgusted," he said. "This was really an outlet for my discouragement and [to] turn it into constructive energy."
As for the future, Mr. Kreiss-Tomkins said he hopes to attend the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to be held in Boston in July. He plans to continue his political involvement and hopes to join more campaigns.
"I like how politics is always changing," he said. "The only reason I'm doing this is because I want change, and politics and government are the easiest way to incite change."
Vol. 23, Issue 15, Page 3Published in Print: December 10, 2003, as Take Note