Asher and presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker in South Carolina.
As we headed out to attend Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Cory Booker’s Town Hall in Florence, South Carolina, my twelve-year-old son Asher had the usual complaints, “Mom, do I have to go? Can’t I stay home and play on my Nintendo Switch?” His tone started to change when he got to ride with his friend Jalen, and then even more so when he felt the energy in the crowd at the event.
We were there with other Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) volunteers. To prepare, we had gone over the questions we would ask Senator Booker and had our phones ready with the scripts in the event he called on us. The excitement grew as we canvassed attendees lining up outside the event. We gathered petition signatures in support of robust funding for child care and increased protection for children living in conflict zones. Despite the rain, spirits were high and the power of true democracy reverberated in the group gathered outside the building.
When our group of nine advocates in bright red SCAN T-shirts sat down inside the lecture hall waiting to hear Senator Booker, a staff member came over and asked if we would like to ask a question after the senator finished his opening remarks. My son raised his hand and she promised to come back when it was time for questions.
Asher was on the edge of his seat while the senator spoke. When the senator started to take questions from the audience, I saw Asher glance at the phone in his hand a few times, choosing his question and getting comfortable with the verbiage.
Finally, it was Asher’s turn to ask a question. The senator started by asking Asher his name and joking with him about how good he would look if he shaved his head. Asher replied that a bald head sure helped eliminate the risk of lice. Cory Booker said he might use that as a campaign slogan—“Vote for Cory; he has no lice!” The room erupted in laughter.
“Go ahead, Asher. Ask your question, man,” the senator said. Asher asked with a clear and steady voice, “So, how would you enforce international laws protecting children from conflict?” The room suddenly fell silent. Senator Booker answered passionately about the compelling humanitarian values, which demand that we protect children everywhere.
After the event, Asher had the chance to meet Cory Booker and get a selfie with the senator. The sense of power and confidence that Asher felt showed all over his face. That taste of democracy, that chance to use his voice to advocate for other children and that boost in confidence are things that Asher will take with him and draw on again and again as he continues to strengthen his convictions and hone his skills. Save the Children Action Network is not only protecting children around the world and changing access to quality child care in the U.S.; it is also giving children and youth the vital opportunity to use their voices in a way that is full of meaning, power and promise for our collective future.