STORY BY JESSICA LYNK
In a room of over six thousand, presidential candidate Martin O’Malley told the crowd a story of an Iowa Dreamer that advocates for citizens’ rights for herself and other Americans in her position.
That Dreamer was Drake junior Kenia Calderon, who was invited to the Iowa Democratic Party Jefferson Jackson dinner after writing a Huffington Post article endorsing O’Malley.
“I got the opportunity to sit next to him, along with my family, during the dinner and I thought that was a huge honor,” Calderon said. “But hearing my name being called was amazing because none of the other candidates acknowledge a Dreamer and all the work we are doing not just here in Iowa, but here in the nation.”
Calderon was among more than 30 Drake students in attendance at the JJ dinner on Saturday. The dinner, the largest event for the Iowa Democratic Party, featured all three of the presidential candidates running for the Democratic Party.
The event drives voter turnout for the party through financial donations and speeches, giving candidates the opportunity to show why they stand out from the others.
Likewise, the event gave candidates a space to outline their specific policies.
The event, hosted at Hy-Vee Hall downtown Des Moines, brought in supporters for all three candidates, separated by bleacher tickets purchased by the campaigns to then distribute to campaign supporters.
Among those supporters was Student Body President Kevin Maisto.
Maisto wanted to attend the event immediately after hearing about it. For Maisto, this was a peek into the political scene.
“We at Drake, in Des Moines and even just in Iowa in general get to see so much more of the process that creates our government,” Maisto said.
“To get the opportunity to shake hands with, to meet, to interact with, to takes selfies with the people who are running to be the head of our government is huge.”
The three candidates were given the opportunity to talk through their platforms, which then invoked emotion in the form of chanting in the crowd. Maisto enjoyed this part of the dinner.
“You don’t do that (chant for a candidate) when it is a debate that you see on TV,” Maisto said. “You may get excited inside, but you don’t feel thousands of people chanting with the candidate.”
First year Mia Blondin was also in attendance of the event. She enjoyed watching the interaction of the candidates.
“(My favorite part was) watching the candidates poke fun at each other and members of the GOP, but then follow-up by mentioning their policy,” Blondin said. “They weren’t just tearing other people down, they were saying ‘I don’t agree with this and this is what I want to do to change it if I become president.’”
Even though Blondin attended the event because she leans left, she believes it is meaningful to attend events on both sides.
“It’s really important to pay attention to both sides, even if you think that you only agree with one side or you strongly believe or make you think a little bit more,” Blondin said.
Calderon agrees with Blondin.
“Being a millennial, we need to attend events like these, and if we get a chance to talk to them (politicians), then we need to challenge them on the topics that they are not good at,” Calderon said.
Although the event was primarily meant to fundraise for the party, Maisto found other meaning.
“It just inspires you and energizes you and makes you believe a little more in the process again, which is something I think in America we all need right now,” Maisto said.