Youngest RNC Delegate Infuses Youth In GOP

Mike Knopf, 17, will be the youngest delegate at the Republican National Convention this week. He tells Liane Hanson that economics is the issue he feels is most important to young people. According to Knopf, Sen. John McCain's stance is "keeping money in your pocket." The aspiring politician says he is "bringing a new face to an old party and renewing our party's strength. If you don't keep a party young, you can't keep a party strong."

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

It's Labor Day Weekend. And for most 17-year-olds, this time of year means a return to cafeteria lunches, pop quizzes and study hall. Some, however, have grander plans. Mike Knopf, a student at Dubuque Senior High School in Iowa, will be traveling to this week's Republican National Convention where he'll be the youngest delegate to pledge his support for John McCain. Mike, first, welcome to the program.

Mr. MIKE KNOPF (Student, Iowa; Youngest Delegate, Republican National Convention): Hi.

HANSEN: How does a 17-year-old become an Iowa state delegate?

Mr. KNOPF: I went to the county and district level caucuses and conventions. And from there on, my mom's friend, Cheryl Kramer(ph), who had gotten me involved into the political kind of mainstream, started talking to her friends and she wrote a nominating speech for me, and I had to come up with a cover sheet, which was kind of like a resume with two pictures. One of me and Senator McCain that I had met, and a picture out of a local newspaper from an event that Mitt Romney had, and a list of the things that I do around the community and school, such as student government, football team, track team.

HANSEN: What do you think John McCain offers to young Americans?

Mr. KNOPF: The young Americans, I guess, if you had to pick one issue, it would probably be the economics about it because young people these days, when they have a job, they're very money-oriented. You know what I mean? Like, they work hard for what they're getting so they want to keep more of it in their pocket. And his stance on cutting taxes is definitely pro-keeping money in your pocket. So that's what the appeal to a lot of young voters is.

HANSEN: What do you hope to get out of your experience at the convention?

Mr. KNOPF: Everything I can. I'm pretty shocked. I was when I got down there because I was bringing a new face to an old party and trying to renew our party's strength, through core conservatives and Republicans that care about our party, realize when it's time to move over and help the youth take over the party or at least help phase them in because if you don't keep a party young, you can't keep a party strong.

HANSEN: Do you get any flack in your school? I mean, do you find yourself having to defend yourself in the hallway?

Mr. KNOPF: Yeah, and especially with the teachers. Every day when I would walk into my history classes and my social study classes, the teachers are obviously - the majority of them are going to be liberal, but I enjoy that. I enjoy having the students listen to what the teacher and myself have to say because that's how they can become more interested in what's going on.

HANSEN: Do you have political aspirations of your own?

Mr. KNOPF: I do. And that's probably the biggest part of why I'm doing this, is to get my face out there. My ultimate goal is probably to be a governor or senator.

HANSEN: Mike Knopf is a 17-year-old delegate representing Iowa at the Republican National Convention this week. Thanks for your time and have a good time.

Mr. KNOPF: Thanks. I appreciate it.

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