In high school, teenagers are supposed to focus on schoolwork, friends and part-time jobs. At the age of 17, Western student Rachel Gonzalez was focused on politics and the betterment of the United States of America by running as a delegate for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
Gonzalez started out as a volunteer for the Clinton campaign and helped in Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. After all the work for the primary elections ended, Gonzalez ran to become a delegate when she was 17 years old.
With the official title as a delegate during the 2016 election, Gonzalez was given responsibilities that would eventually change her life.
“I ran in Missouri’s 5th Congressional District against over 15 people and ended up being elected. I cannot begin to describe the initial shock of finding out I was chosen,” Gonzalez said. “The responsibility I had was to represent my district at the Democratic National Convention and vote for Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee. I traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the convention with all of the other delegates from across the country to cast my official nominating vote.”
From the moment Gonzalez went to the convention, she believed she was making history.
“When I attended the Democratic National Convention, it was sort of a big deal because I was Hillary Clinton’s youngest delegate in the nation and Missouri’s youngest-ever elected delegate to any political convention,” Gonzalez said.
Close friend and supporter of Gonzalez Heather Scott gave insight as to how Gonzalez made an impact of making history.
“It could not have happened to someone more deserving,” Scott said. “She truly was the perfect representative for Hillary Clinton at the DNC. Teenagers are often cynical about the world, but Rachel was inspired and hopeful about the impact she could have on this election, and it was moving to see her be a part of the leadership body of the DNC that truly reflected the population of the country.”
Scott was not only an encouraging friend but a support to Gonzalez through it all. Scott helped by setting up a GoFundMe account for donations and also documented Gonzales’ journey on social media.
“I shared a lot of those photographs and interviews that she did while she was at the DNC on social media because she is so inspiring to people of all ages, but especially young people. She was able to give them a window into what it looks like to fully participate in Democracy while also being the perfect example of how to fiercely represent your candidate,” Scott said.
During the Convention, as the youngest delegate in the history of the nation, Gonzalez stayed busy making her impact.
“Over the course of five days, I did 35 interviews with various news outlets,” she said. “I went live with ABC Politics, CNN, and multiple local news stations across the country. My day started at around 5 am each day with radio interviews and then ended around 2 am every night after I got out of the convention center. The excitement of it all gave me so much adrenaline that I was able to stay awake when I needed to.”
Being a part of history has its pros and cons. Gonzalez admitted that not everyone was always so encouraging during her delegate experience.
“I did sometimes hear snarky comments made about me in school. I knew before getting into politics that it wasn’t going to be easy and that I’d have tons of critics, but I don’t do it for any attention at all. The reason I got involved in the first place was because I wanted to make a difference and to help elect people that I believe will do the best for our country,” Gonzalez said.
During this life-changing convention, there were numerous moments that outshined any critics Gonzalez might have had. Candidate Clinton showed her appreciation towards Gonzalez in a way she would never forget.
“Before the Democratic National Convention, I had met Hillary Clinton seven times, and during it, she posted my picture and story on her Instagram page. The day after the convention I was at a rally of hers in Philadelphia when she spotted me on the rope line and had her staff bring me a card that said, ‘Thank you, Rachel!’” Gonzalez said.
Rachel Gonzalez encourages every citizen, young or old, to speak out and use their voices when they feel strongly about something.
“It’s sometimes hard to voice your opinion because no matter what people will tell you that you are wrong. I want to encourage anyone regardless of whether they support the same political party as me to get involved because your voice is just as important as anyone else’s,” Gonzalez said.