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Kids weigh in on NH Primary issues from climate change and equal rights to . . . shorts?

At Seacoast ArtSpot in Portsmouth, best friends Leena Trout (right) and Lila O'Connell (left), both of Brentwood, spent primary day crafting. Lila said if she were president, her cabinet members would all be required to wear shorts or skirts (Lila wears shorts every day).
Lauren Chooljian/NHPR
At Seacoast ArtSpot in Portsmouth, best friends Leena Trout (right) and Lila O'Connell (left), both of Brentwood, spent primary day crafting. Lila said if she were president, her cabinet members would all be required to wear shorts or skirts (Lila wears shorts every day).

Voters might be heading to the polls, but school is out for most New Hampshire kids today. NHPR’s Jason Moon and Lauren Chooljian swung by the Seacoast ArtSpot in Portsmouth where their day camp was full of little artists with big ideas about the kind of leader this country needs.

Press the play button above to hear the story or read the transcript of the audio piece below.


LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: Okay, why are we here today?

RONAN CONNELL: Because… you want to talk to people on the radio, kind of?

LAUREN: Yep, that’s exactly right. Do you know what day it is today?

RONAN: It’s voting day for presidents.

LAUREN: What do you think about that?

RONAN: Well, it’s kinda cool because you get to pick and I can’t really pick, but I’m high– highly… but there’s a higher chance that I’m going to vote on Joe Biden.

Happy voting day from Rye’s own Ronan Connell.

LAUREN: Let me ask you something: Can you vote?

RONAN: No, ‘cause I’m only 6. 

LAUREN: How do you feel about that?

RONAN: Well, I… considering I have to wait, how many years, 12…?

LAUREN: Is that disappointing?

RONAN: Yeah, kind of.

LAUREN: Do you wish you could vote today?

RONAN: Yeah.

Bummer. Ronan thinks he’d make a pretty good president. He’s even ready with a platform: No bullying, no teasing, no rough housing, and…

RONAN: I’d vote for everything would be free and no one had to use any of their money so they could just keep it as a souvenir... And help dolphins because they’re one of those endangered creatures.

Climate change weighs on Ronan. He says he kinda got into it with a friend about it.

RONAN: One time I said to my friend, “Hey, you know the beaches are going to be right out your house soon!” And they thought that was rude. And I was like, “Hey, it’s going to happen to my house, too!”

If Seacoast ArtSpot is any indicator, Ronan’s platform could poll well in the First in the Nation state. Two other kids already said they’d vote for him.

SULLIVAN: I just want Ronan to be the president.

LAUREN: You do!? Ronan, you got another vote, wherever you are!

The voting demographic here trends young – between 5 and a half and 10 years old. They’re all very invested in snowman drawings and marble mazes.

LAUREN: What’s your name?

ESME: My name is Esmé... I’m twins with Ronan.

LAUREN: You’re twins with Ronan!?

RONAN (off-mic): Oh yeah!

Esmé Connell, 6, of Rye, said she’d vote for her twin brother Ronan for president. Ronan (who said he’d vote for Esmé, too) says he’d run on an anti-bullying, anti-teasing, and pro dolphin platform.
Lauren Chooljian/NHPR
Esmé Connell, 6, of Rye, said she’d vote for her twin brother Ronan for president. Ronan (who said he’d vote for Esmé, too) says he’d run on an anti-bullying, anti-teasing, and pro dolphin platform.

Esmé says she’d vote for her brother for president. And actually, Ronan says he’d vote for her, too. Maybe they could both run?

Although, Esmé was planning on being a veterinarian. Maybe she could do both from the White House.

ESME: Like, make sure that every animal has good medicine to keep them healthy.

LAUREN: I love that, okay.

ESME: Especially I love zebras... All of my stuffies are mostly all zebras.

LAUREN: Really!?

Not everyone was as open with their political beliefs as the Connell twins.

Nine-year-old Max Cantor of Portsmouth looked desperate to talk to us at first, but when it was his turn at the mic…

MAX CANTOR: Usually in public I try to not say my opinion because that could insult somebody or cause something... Like, if you’re at the grocery store and you just come in and that’s what you say, they’re not going to let you back in the grocery store, are they?

LAUREN: You think?

With time and some prodding though, Max it turns out, was sitting on some big wisdom.

MAX CANTOR: We have a lot happening right now that is amazing… There’s an order we have been trying to maintain. It’s going well. This is a nice country and a nice state currently. But if I had to say we could improve anything, I’d say that we should try to… ‘Cause there are still various people out there that think that certain people and certain races are not welcome, so we should try to stop as much racism and – which is another reason I am very happy that we have certain presidents out there.

Everyone is welcome at the craft tables.

Leena Trout is 9 years old right now, but at the end of this month, she says she’ll be in the double digits.

Her best friend Lila O’Connell is drawing right next to her.

LILA O'CONNELL: I feel like Leena, she’s just a kind friend and she’s very inclusive and very understanding.

LEENA TROUT: You are, too.

LILA: Thank you!

Lila and Leena live in Brentwood. They think their parents met on Facebook or something, and that's how they know each other now. And it's great because they want all the same things in a president.

LEENA: I would want him to be – or him or her to be a supportive president and treating everyone equally, and to be, like, fair and do what’s right for the country.

Lila might run for president one day. Lila who only wears shorts. Every day. Even today.

LAUREN: What is it about shorts that you like?

LILA: I’m just… People call me a polar bear sometimes because… I’m always warm.

LAUREN: Okay, if you were president, is there any part of your platform that would involve shorts?

LILA: Yes. 

LAUREN: What would it be? Would you make other people wear shorts? Would your cabinet members have to wear shorts?

LILA: Yes. Or, like, skirts or something. Something that your legs aren’t fully covered.

LAUREN: Okay!

LILA: And then instead of a full-on dress suit or something, I’d get to wear a skirt.

LAUREN: Free the leg.

LILA: Yes.

LAUREN: Love it.

LAUREN: Alright, my last question for you is: If you were president, what’s the first thing you would do? You could do anything, you’re in charge of the whole country, what would you do?

LEENA: Um, probably make sure, like, women have equal rights.

[Leena and Lauren high-five]

LAUREN: Nice work.

LEENA: Thank you.

[music up and out]

Lauren is a Senior Reporter/Producer for NHPR's narrative news unit, Document.
Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.
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