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It has become so clichéd, one wonders if the words carry any meaning at all.
Politicians, trying to encourage political participation on the part of a younger generation, extoll the virtues of “becoming involved” and insist that anyone, even those too young to vote, “can make a difference” in the process.
But, for some Cheshire teenagers, those words carried meaning. Members of the Cheshire High School Young Democrats Club heeded the words of one particular politician early on in the 2010 election, Dannel Malloy, and decided to do what they could to help.
Despite Malloy’s position as a long-shot to upend the popular Ned Lamont for the Democratic candidacy for governor, a number of students decided to amass in an effort to help him win.
He did, and went on to win the governorship over Republican Tom Foley in November.
And, when Malloy was finally ready to take his seat at the head of the state’s government, he didn’t forget about the teens who helped him get there.
On Wednesday, January 5, at the request of Malloy, members of the Young Democrats Club attended the new governor’s inauguration. It was an affair filled with pomp and circumstance, bringing together long-time supporters of the former Stamford mayor and residents looking to wish him well. In the middle of it were the Young Democrats, whom Malloy didn’t forget.
“He saw us and said, ‘These must be the Young Dems,’” remembered CHS student Sean Kinyon, president of the Young Democrats Club who attended the inauguration. “Then, he came over and gave me a hug, and shook hands with everyone. It was a pretty amazing moment.”
Kinyon and his fellow club members began their association with Malloy early on. Inspired by his vision for the state, and his desire to get the younger generation involved, members of the group began campaigning for him before the Democratic primaries, in a section of Connecticut few people believed the former mayor had a chance of winning.
“Malloy and his campaign thought they would write off Rocky Hill. They didn’t think they could win there,” remembered Kinyon. “So, we went up there and started to go door-to-door, getting the word out.”
About 20 members of the club would take time out from their weekends to hand out literature and talk to prospective voters in town. The Malloy operation at the time was small, Kinyon remembers, with only a few staffers and volunteers, all working hard to promote their candidate.
Lamont, who ran against U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in 2006 and lost, was the better known, and better funded candidate, and most believed Malloy had only a slim chance of defeating him.
However, when primary night came, Malloy emerged the victor, and one of the municipalities that helped him pull off the upset was Rocky Hill.
“When we were going out there and talking to people, we didn’t really believe we were making a huge difference,” said Kinyon. “On primary night, though, we saw that making a small difference in Rocky Hill could make a huge difference overall.”
The experience was a positive one for members of the club, no matter the outcome, Kinyon admitted. Going door to door
helped the like-minded teens
become closer friends, and Kinyon, for one, enjoyed the interaction with the people they would meet.
“You are really connecting with people,” he said. “When you have the opportunity to talk with someone, and you see that you have changed their mind, it really is great.”
On Inauguration Day, about 40 members of the club boarded a bus outside of Cheshire High School bound for Hartford. Kinyon said that many of the students who attended were freshmen and sophomores, and he could see how special it was for them to witness how their hard work had contributed to something so big.
“Just a couple of months before, we were sitting around a table (with Malloy) having coffee and bagels and just talking, and now he is the governor,” said Kinyon.
And what lasting impression did his experience have on Kinyon?
“It made me very hopeful for the future — that good people, coming from different professions, could help lead the State and the Nation,” he said.
At right, Sean Kinyon (left) shares a proud moment with Governor-elect Dannel Malloy en route to the State Capitol building in Hartford on Inauguration Day.