- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

Claiming to be “lost” with the leadership of the current administration, high school and college students have begun to rally behind presidential hopeful Howard Dean and have dubbed themselves “Generation Dean.”

The Dean campaign kicked off its seven-city “Raise the Roots” campaign last week in an effort to rally younger voters.

More than 12,000 high school and college-age students are members of the grass-roots, decentralized Generation Dean, which was started by American University sophomore Michael Whitney, who began Students for Dean at the District-based campus. It later evolved into Generation Dean.

Mr. Whitney was going to work for another campaign until he saw Mr. Dean speak.

“He blew me away because he was speaking to our generation, to the issues we care about,” he said. “It’s not that young people are apathetic, but they didn’t think of government as an effective means for change. [Generation Dean] is trying to fill that gap, that government can make change.”

The communications major explained that a “vicious cycle” has long been the political paradox of politicians thinking youth do not care and the young people thinking politicians equally do not care about them.

With 700 chapters nationwide, the Generation Dean Roots campaign will stop in South Carolina, Washington state, Oklahoma, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

Dean spokeswoman Courtney O’Donnell said the former governor of Vermont knows the integral role these voters play in his campaign.

“This outreach is critical,” Miss O’Donnell said. “In the past, politicians have not given young people a reason to vote and be engaged, but the governor gives them a reason to be involved. The governor treats them as adults, and he believes they need to know the truth, and so he’s talking to them directly.”

Amber Elliott attended the kickoff at Howard University and said she likes Mr. Dean’s realistic attitude and straightforwardness.

“He doesn’t sugarcoat it,” said the 19-year-old public relations officer for the Howard University chapter of College Democrats of America, adding that even if Mr. Dean doesn’t make it to the White House, “it’s been good because he has gotten young people thinking.”

Students at the official kickoff of Generation Dean repeatedly identified health care, civil liberties, the economy and the war as issues they considered important. They were flattered Mr. Dean cared about their concerns.

Senior biology major Jocelyn Slaughter, volunteer coordinator for Howard’s College Democrats, said Mr. Dean intrigues her because one of his main focuses is her generation, though her favorite candidate is Carol Moseley Braun, the former senator from Illinois. Miss Slaughter believes President Bush has failed because young people’s interests have been largely ignored.

“We’re lost with him,” she said.

Not only are students getting out the vote, but they are also giving money. Students make up 25 percent of the contributors to Mr. Dean’s campaign.

Mr. Dean is using a fund-raising mechanism that appeals to Generation Dean: the Internet. This online campaign has been very popular among donors, and figures show Mr. Dean is close to raising $15 million in the third quarter alone.

Not to mention the former governor is slowly becoming popular among first-time voters.

“He’s not the typical candidate, and that’s why he has such an appeal, especially with young voters who are fed up with politicians who talk and don’t act,” said Ariane Holm, a 25-year-old graduate student at George Washington University and Generation Dean coordinator for Northern Virginia and the District.

One professor explained why students find Mr. Dean attractive.

“He’s fresh air. He stands for sense of freedom and challenge the establishment,” said Masoud Kavoosi, a Howard international-business professor.

Mr. Kavoosi said Mr. Dean resembles John F. Kennedy and that the Vermont governor shares the fundamental values of the country of personal liberty and freedom.

A 2003 Harvard University Institute of Politics study reported that young voters have the potential to be the swing vote in the 2004 presidential election. Nearly 60 percent of those polled said they would vote in 2004, compared to the actual 32 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 who voted in 2000.

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