NEW YORK – Republican teenagers and college students had the run of Madison Square Garden (search) Wednesday at a youth-oriented event that featured Bush daughters Barbara and Jenna, nephew George P. Bush and key party figures.
"This is a great time to be a young person and to make your voices heard," said Bush-Cheney '04 deputy strategist Sara Taylor.
"It’s important to let people know that there are plenty of young people in their teens and 20s that support President Bush," she said.
More than 2,500 young Republicans enjoyed the two-hour day session even after a dozen protesters chanting "Bush Lies" and "Bush Kills" interrupted a speech by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card (search). (AIDS activist group ACT UP later claimed responsibility.)
"It’s been a really wild experience," said Mike Inganamort, president of the College Republicans at American University. "I never thought I’d be in the convention hall listening to such speakers."
Syndicated radio host Ben Ferguson said young people needed to be engaged in America’s political debates because decisions made in Washington had a direct effect on them.
"The people who fight the war on terror are 18, 19," he said. "They are my friends."
Vivian Lee, a 17-year-old high school senior from Los Angeles, said her concerns focused more on abortion, stem cell research and gay rights.
"For me," she said, "It's all about morals."
Education was what got the attention of 25-year-old Boston College graduate student Shedrick M. Gavin, who praised Bush for No Child Left Behind (search) and vouchers that provide alternatives to "horrible public schools."
Adam Alexander, a national communications coordinator for the nonpartisan New Voters Project (search), also attended the Democratic convention in Boston, where he said the youth turnout was somewhat larger.
“It’s harder [this time] because more kids are in school," he said.
Other speakers addressing the crowd included former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, actress Angie Harmon and NFL cornerback Jason Sehorn.
But some young Republicans were still reeling from the excitment of Tuesday's powerhouse lineup.
"Awesome," was how David Lobl, a 20-year-old Northwestern University student, described California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech.
"He was amazing. Really, really great," he said. "He came to America from Austria with nothing. He lived an American dream."