Red Lion teen is running for president – in 2036 (column)
The York Tech student plans to run for president in 2036. Mike Argento
When I called to arrange an interview with the presidential candidate, I was kind of surprised to get him on the phone.
Usually, there are several layers of handlers, press secretaries, spin doctors and assorted officious factotums intended to prevent that kind of thing from happening.
So when the candidate answered the phone, it was more than kind of unusual. It was akin to seeing a shooting star, hitting a unicorn while mermaids sat by and watched. (Do mermaids even sit?)
I told the candidate who I was and that I wished to set up a time to talk to him about his campaign and his vision for the country and all of that.
And he said, "Let me check with my mom."
I believe George W. Bush probably had to do that, too.
The candidate's mom said it was OK with her, and so one afternoon I found myself sitting in the living room of Samuel B. Waltemyer's Red Lion home talking about his candidacy.
Much of his plans, policies and political stances are still evolving at this point. And he has a pretty good reason for that.
The election is a long way off.
Twenty years to be exact.
Samuel has announced – via Facebook, of course – that he is planning to run for president in 2036.
If that seems kind of far off in the distance, it's for a reason. Samuel is only 15 – he'll turn 16 in October – and he wouldn't reach the constitutionally mandated minimum age for president, 35, until 2036.
It started as a kind of joke, sort of. A friend of his at school – he studies early childhood education at York Tech and is planning to be an elementary school teacher – took one of Samuel's Facebook photos and made it into a poster like Shepard Fairey's widely copied Obama "Hope" poster. His friend, he said, is in the information technology program and is kind of a whiz at that kind of stuff.
Other friends encouraged him to announce his candidacy. He started up a Facebook page. It began attracting "likes," and the rest is history.
His inspiration comes from former President Jimmy Carter. He said he studied presidents in his civics and government class, and the more he learned about Carter, the more he liked him. Carter, he said, has integrity, and he likes how the former president has conducted himself after leaving office – still teaching Sunday school and building homes for poor people. He also liked that Carter went to Three Mile Island in 1979. "He didn't hide in the White House and cower," Samuel said. "He came out to where things were happening."
He has met Carter. He and his family traveled to Plains, Ga., the Sunday before the Fourth of July to attend Sunday school and services at Carter's church, Plains Baptist. They had made the trip before, but Carter hadn't taught that Sunday.
It was a long drive. They left early and arrived at the church at quarter to seven in the morning, a couple of hours before Sunday school began. There was already a line, as Carter's classes are popular. They passed through security and went to the class. Afterward, Samuel and his family had their photo taken with Carter.
Samuel told the former president that he planned to run for president in 2036.
Carter, who is 91, said, "I'll be waiting."
Samuel has already been honing his political skills. He says his networking and communications skills can bring people together to get things done to govern the nation.
He hasn't decided whether he is a Democrat or a Republican or some other third party. Although he sees "benefits and disadvantages" to being affiliated with either party, he believes picking a side now "wouldn't be a good choice" for him.
"There's room for improvement on both sides," he said.
He believes the political system should be open to other political parties, giving people more choices when picking their public servants. He thinks the primary system is flawed and that the election should just be one large general election.
Beginning his campaign so early has some advantages, he said. "The way I look at it, if I can win votes now, that's less votes I have to win later," he said.
He hasn't developed any specific policies – and for good reason.
"I don't want to look at the issues," he said. "In 20 years, they could be resolved or may not exist at all."
He does have some general ideas. On taxes, he said, "We need to review what tax dollars are being spent on, and I think taxpayers should know what their tax dollars are being spent on by having an open and easy report. Easy to read and easy to understand."
Other than that, he doesn't have many specific ideas, preferring to paint the canvas with a broad brush.
His family supports his effort, to a point. His mother said, "I'm a laid-back, stay-in-the-background type person." She said she probably wouldn't be hitting the campaign trail with her son. "I doubt it," she said. "I have to think about my age then, too."
As for Samuel, following the current presidential race has been illuminating and interesting. He is following it, even though he won't be eligible to vote for another two years.
And who knows? In 20 years, he could be facing off against Clinton or Trump – Chelsea or Donald Jr.
As for the current candidates, he said, "I'm not going to support or reject either one at this point. They both have their advantages and disadvantages."
Spoken like a true politician.
Mike Argento's column appears Mondays and Fridays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints. Reach him at 717-771-2046 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.