By Michaela Burke
A once in a lifetime opportunity was presented to me at my doorstep. Last Sunday night, in the production room of The New Hampshire, it came to my attention that UNH was chosen to host the final Democratic debate before the New Hampshire primary election on Feb. 9 featuring candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
UNH was hosting one of the key political events of the 2016 primary, and it was all going down five minutes walking distance from my apartment complex. Not only did I feel like one in a million because the school I attend happened to be selected, but also I had missed my chance to hear Clinton and Sanders speak earlier last semester when they came to campus. So when I found out I would be able to attend, I was in utter disbelief and shock.
My roommates, who also got tickets, and I rearranged our schedules, making sure we had the utmost perfect day leading up to this grand experience.
We laid out our best business casual attire and arrived as early as we could, making sure we could secure good seats. Soaking up everything like sponges, we took pictures in front of the stage as well as video after video. We stuck out like sore thumbs compared to the slick and serious other debate-goers. Trying to act as professional as possible, my roommates and I took our seats. As the debate started I stayed glued to the candidates, hanging on every word.
I was “Team Hillary” going into the debate and have been for a long time. Still, I proceeded to take into consideration all of Sanders’ thoughts and ideas. What was most surprising was how my stance on the candidates shifted mid-debate! I was in shock. As I came to the realization of this new idea, I was starting to “feel the Bern.”
Not only did he sound like he cared about what he was talking about, but I could feel that he wasn’t just telling me what I wanted to hear, he was telling me what I needed to hear. The power and passion he had for the greater good of the citizens of America made me want to vote Sanders all the way. I couldn’t believe his influence was taking a toll.
As the debate came to a close, attendees scurried to the front of the stage to meet their heroes. When the opportunity came to possibly meet the woman whom I had whole-heartedly supported and loved, I of course ran with nothing in my path stopping me. As I approached the stage and felt my time running out as Hillary’s managers tried scurrying her off, I knew I had to do something drastic. I grabbed my camera and I shouted as she drew closer, “UNH loves you, we love you Hillary!”
Beaming and feeling like I had just finished a marathon, I was overwhelmed that the former secretary of state was in front of me. My judgment was clouded and everything seemed to slow down as I stared into her eyes and waited for her response. Without a blink, and a bit of hesitation, Clinton responded with, “Oohhh, well… Thank you guys so much…”
Thank you? I could scratch a nail on a chalkboard and the sound wouldn’t even compare to how painful her response was to my ears. Yes, maybe she was startled and confused by a 21-year-old girl professing her love for her while screaming acronyms at her, but as I walked away from the stage I thought, “If you’re going to be the next president of our country, show some actual emotion.”
This experience of meeting the woman I had previously idolized was something I thought I would treasure forever, but it happened to be a total dud.
Coming down from the high of being at the national event and the thrill meeting a political icon, I was upset and confused. I doubted my beliefs and what I thought I knew, but then I remembered the truth I had felt behind Bernie’s words. I thought about the electricity he ignited in the audience that created a feeling making our country better was an attainable goal. It was in that moment I had realized I had converted. Not only had I felt the Bern, I was scorched.