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Spencer Rendahl: Campaigns And Kids

Clinton Campaign staff
Hillary Clinton, Suzanne Spencer Rendahl and Family

It’s primary season in New Hampshire, with candidates popping up at town halls, community colleges, and ice cream stands.The opportunity to meet candidates has always made me feel like a kid in a candy store. And as soon as my own kids were old enough, I brought them along for the excitement.

Our first campaign adventure was at an Obama rally in Concord, New Hampshire, in November 2012, two days before the general election. We waited in line for two hours that cold, windy morning and were herded through airport-level security. My kids got to hear two presidents - Clinton and Obama – but could only see the backs of thousands of people in front of them.

These days we arrive at events early. This happens to be a good time to snag campaign stickers – and kids love stickers. This strategy also allowed us to secure some of the last seats for a Sanders event in Claremont, New Hampshire – during which Bernie spoke for a fiery 45-minutes. My 5-year-old son struggled to contain his energy until the Q&A began. During a pause between questions, my son announced loudly that he was bored and ready to go home. Hopefully Senator Sanders didn’t hear him.

Despite moments like this, I want my kids to experience important debates and understand that seeing candidates up close is a rare and special opportunity. As New Hampshire natives, it's their birthright. Friends in states like California complain that candidates only visit for fundraisers. And in fact, I lived in several states as a child, but it wasn’t until I came to New Hampshire in the early ‘90s for college that I got to see real live candidates - including Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown. I even met Hillary Clinton in a gathering of only a couple dozen people as she campaigned for her husband.

Two weeks ago, I took my kids to see Hillary campaign for herself. We arrived early, but I didn’t anticipate her added security gauntlet. As we approached metal detectors and secret service agents, my son simultaneously showed his political savvy and naiveté by exclaiming “This is WAY different than Bernie Sanders!”

We got into the main hall but didn’t get seats, which allowed us to stand near the front for a better view. That meant, however, that to keep my son entertained and out of trouble I had him on my shoulders for most of the hour-long speech.

Perhaps Hillary saw me struggle, because she had her picture taken with us.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
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