Indiana Daily Student

Junior sees politics firsthand in Los Angeles

Student lands role as Indiana delegate at national convention

Despite the coughing, wheezing and rain-soaked clothes, junior Tiffany Benjamin's enthusiasm fueled her. One more person, she thought to herself, one more person. \nLast year, Benjamin and 10 other volunteers went out into the community on a rainy afternoon to get signatures for a local political candidate. They got the signatures, along with a cold the next week. \nBenjamin still chuckles when she thinks of it, but the important thing is they got the signatures, she said. "There were a lot of us coughing and wheezing," she said. "We just got through it. We were excited."\nDuring the summer, the political science and journalism double major interned at a political office, but her real stories are from the Democratic National Convention ' where she made history as the youngest Indiana delegate.\nBenjamin was in the room when Bill Clinton passed the Democratic torch. She witnessed Al Gore smack the kiss Aug. 17 that would make headlines the next day. At the convention, she also volunteered and listened to caucus speeches. \n"I was trying hard to see everything I possibly could," she said. "Being at the convention on Thursday (Aug. 17) was amazing. Everybody was so charged. A lot of people see conventions as a party, but it wasn't. It was people trying to make a difference and people making unity within the party.\n"Bill Clinton's speech was one of the most amazing speeches I've ever heard," she said. "He was saying goodbye and leaving the door open for Al Gore. The kiss proved Al Gore is human."\nBenjamin began her volunteer work with College Democrats as a freshman. She liked it so much, she interned at the Tippecanoe County Democratic headquarters during the summer in her hometown, West Lafayette. \nJeff Coyne, her supervisor at the headquarters, remembers Benjamin for her self-motivation.\n"She really wants to make a difference in their community," Coyne said. "She was an asset, helping to get Gov. O'Bannon elected and re-elected. It's great to see the enthusiasm and to make your community, state and nation better."\nBenjamin said her main issue is voter registration. \n"I realize what's at stake," she said. "A lot of citizens don't vote," she said, her brown eyes open with concern. "People don't believe in politics. That's definitely wrong." \nCoyne said part of the reason why Benjamin donates so much of her life to politics is because she comes from a socially conscious family. Her mother, Sandra Benjamin, works with minorities to ensure their health care, has served for AIDS outreach groups and is a social worker at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lafayette. Sandra said her daughter learned about the importance of making changes at the local level. She also said Benjamin puts her heart into her work.\n"She's just very bubbly in life," her mother said. "She takes things and runs with them. She doesn't do anything half-heartedly."\nAnother reason she's involved is because she believes minorities and women should be more involved in the political process. \n"It's important for minorities to be involved in politics," she said. "It's definitely important for black people to have a voice."\nAt the convention, Benjamin remembers living off three hours of sleep. She also saw another type of political participation ' protesters. Throughout the convention, protesters gathered around the stadium to rally against government actions. Though protesting is not Benjamin's style of political participation, she said she learned from it. \n"The protesters in Los Angeles were protesting interesting things. They were fighting for some of the same things, but they weren't voting. Protesting is being involved in politics," she said. \nNow that she's back in Bloomington, Benjamin is planning to volunteer again with the upcoming election. Again, she'll push voter registration. She has done about everything a volunteer can do for local politics. She has helped Monroe County politicians in their quest for office. She's also worked with Congressmen and their campaigns. Since the convention, many have asked her if she'll pursue a career in politics, but Benjamin says she isn't thinking that far ahead.\n"The last year and half have gone so fast for her," Benjamin's mother said. "I am starting to think more and more, she'll have a career in politics, but I never believe you can say what you are going to do at 20"

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