College Democrats hang with Kerry and Corzine

A crowd of people swarmed around Sen. John Kerry Sept. 10 when he delivered a speech at a house gathering in support of Sen. Jon Corzine, Democratic candidate for governor.

The event was held in Lawrenceville and Kerry’s featured speech took place on the patio in the backyard. Among the many supporters who went to see Kerry speak were 10 members of the TCNJ College Democrats.

According to Matthew Civiletti, president of TCNJ College Democrats, the turnout for the gathering was exceptional, with approximately 70 people in attendance. Everyone who attended was in support of not only Corzine, but also the Democratic Party as a whole.

Civiletti, who said he was extremely excited to have been at the gathering, also expressed his joy in being able to meet Kerry face to face.

“It was a very inspiring moment,” Civiletti said. “His speech, and meeting with him and shaking his hand.”

Civiletti was not the only person who was given the chance to meet with Kerry, and some people were even able to walk away with a souvenir.

“I shook his hand and I got his autograph,” Mike Skepner, secretary of the TCNJ College Democrats, said. “I’ve been a longtime fan of Kerry, so it was a great opportunity to get his signature.”

In addition to meeting with Kerry, the members of the organization were also able to see Kerry in a different light – off of the television and up close.

Daniel Beckelman, vice president of publicity and communications for the organization, said that meeting Kerry and hearing him speak was a very exciting experience for him, not only because he agrees with Kerry on many issues, but also because he got to see Kerry off-camera.

“I learned that the senator is more personable than he was portrayed in the election,” Beckelman said. “I also have a lot of respect for him to come to New Jersey and speak on behalf of Corzine.”

Echoing this sentiment, Sharon Kohn, vice president of outreach for the TCNJ College Democrats, said she was ecstatic to meet Kerry, who is a political superstar in her eyes, yet in person seems so down to earth.

“I think meeting Kerry reinforced that even the most powerful people in politics are just like you and me – very personable and are concerned about the issues our nation faces,” she said.

Kerry spoke on the war in Iraq, the environment and Democratic moral values, issues that gained the support of many of the members of the TCNJ College Democrats.

“He very briefly discussed the war in Iraq, he actually kind of joked about it,” Kohn said. “I basically agreed on his views.”

She said he also discussed immigration, which was interesting to her since it is such a hot button issue.

According to Civiletti, when Kerry spoke on moral values, he basically discussed the ways in which the Bush administration had used moral values against the Democratic Party, acting as if Democrats do not possess any moral values.

“Kerry said that Bush used moral values in his campaign as a slogan,” Civiletti said. “He said that Democrats also have moral values and so Democrats should say, ‘These are my values too,’ and not let them think it is only Republicans who have values.”

Civiletti said that in defense of this argument, Kerry explained how he had read the New Testament of the Bible because that is what Bush had based his moral values on, and that in his reading he did not find a single part that does not talk about helping the poor.

“He talked about how ridiculous it is that Republicans claim to have moral values, but still give tax cuts to the wealthy,” Civiletti said.

According to Beckelman, Kerry also spoke about an active reform of the Democratic Party.

“He talked a lot about rebuilding the Democratic Party, and generally that’s our goal,” Beckelman said.

Although they realize the goal of rebuilding the Democratic Party will take a lot of time to carry out, members of the TCNJ College Democrats see a brighter future ahead for their party.

“It was interesting to see the different Democratic political elites talk about the direction of the Democratic Party,” Skepner said. “I think we are going in the right direction, as Kerry pointed out in his speech. One by one I think we will convince the public that in 2008, the Democratic Party is the right party for America.”