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Sander's Rally Eye-Opening Experience

A few months ago it donned on me that this will be the first presidential election that I'll be able to vote in. Because of this, I've been paying more attention to politics now than ever before.

I've watched the Republican and Democratic debates, listened to what the candidates have said and have formed my opinions.

There are fewer ways for a voter to be more involved in presidential race, than by attending a presidential candidates' rally. So when I first found out that Bernie Sanders was coming to Yakima Thursday, March 24th, I knew I couldn't miss it.

It's not every day that a presidential candidate with a serious chance of getting their party's nomination comes through the Yakima Valley. Because of this I wanted to get everything I could out of the experience.

I knew getting a press pass was the best way to go. So I put in my RSVP, crossed my fingers, and waited. Long story short: I found myself waiting in the media line with thirty other journalists behind the Sundome.

I was in the media line for a total of twenty minutes before I got in the event. I felt bad for the people that had been camping outside for more than three hours to get a decent spot in the line.

When I finally did end up getting into the rally I made my way to the press area.

There were people from the Associated Press, the Washington Post, CNN, FOX, and even a guy taking pictures for Time Magazine. It was amazing to watch all the different reporters doing their job. For a few local reporters it was their first time covering a presidential rally.

It was at around this time that I began to realize just how special this opportunity was. Some reporters don't get to attend a rally until halfway through their careers, if at all. The ones that do either work in big cities, are lucky enough for a candidate goes to their town, or are a seasoned reporter assigned to following the campaign trail. And here I was, a seventeen-year-old high school student working among these reporters from major news networks just like they were my peers.

Of course they had things more figured out that me. They had their laptops out, were wearing comfortable shoes, and were busy setting their cameras up. Then there was me. I had my Smartphone —to which I had forgotten the charger,— was wearing a pair of dress shoes, and was sitting around not quite sure what I should be doing.

Wearing dress shoes was my biggest mistake. Later on in the night, after five and a half hours of walking around, my feet were dying. I was leaning against the barriers mid-way through Sander's speech just to take some weight off.

But there was more to learn from this experience that the proper shoes to wear— just think how big of a disappointment it would be if that's all I learned.

I also learned that the Secret Service isn't as tough and serious as everyone makes them out to be. Most people have this image of large, suit-wearing men with blank expressions that only talk to you when you're doing something you shouldn't. And that’s mostly true, I won't lie. But during the downtime I had before Sander's speech, I struck up a conversation with an agent and learned about his job and how the Secret Service works when it comes to protection campaign rallies.

I also saw an agent carrying a sack with a box of fruit snacks in it. I'm not sure why I find this funny, but I do and it only helped me form a new opinion on the Secret Service.

The biggest moment of the night, of course, was when Sander's stepped up on stage. It was the first time I had seen a presidential candidate in person. I've seen him on T.V and on the internet so many times that it was weird to finally see him in person.

He talked about free universal healthcare and education, along with topics like immigration reform and women's rights. None of these came as any surprise, considering these issues are trademarks of his campaign agenda.

At the end of the night, Sanders finished his speech to grand applause then left the stage. Now I had a plan. I knew roughly what door Sanders was going to exit from, so right after he went backstage I ran outside and tried to get an interview.

As you probably expected, I was stopped by a Secret Service agent who had blocked off the exit Sanders was going through. Now I knew it was a long shot from the beginning, but I had to try. I had to watch from behind the barrier as six police and Secret Service cars pulled out and drove away. A disappointment for sure.

While I never got that sought-after interview with Bernie Sanders during his rally, this entire presidential campaign has shown me something else— something that will inevitably help me more in the long run. It's shown me the importance of fair coverage.

It's common today to see resentment between people who support different candidates. All over America people are yelling that "Trump is a racist pig," "Clinton is a lying hypocrite," and "Sanders is socialist with no understanding of the economy." But it's not my job to validate or debunk these claims as a journalist. All I need to do is report the facts.

This rally made me realize that at the end of the day Bernie Sanders, like all the other candidates, is a person with a belief. Just like every single one of us. Sure he's in a race for the most important political office in the United States, but that only further creates a necessity for members of the media to accurately relay what he says and does.

It's important however, to realize that the media plays a huge part in how people perceive issues, especially when it comes to politics. Nearly every time a voter accuses a presidential candidate of doing something wrong, they point to a news article that told them that the candidate did it.

Getting to work alongside successful reporters from big print and broadcasting companies showed me how much power I have as a journalist. But this entire presidential campaign has showed me how important it is to wield this power with truth and responsibility.