CNN series on first-time voters comes to Goshen College

After interviewing people in Michigan and Pennsylvania as part of an ongoing project on first-time voters, a CNN crew flew in to speak with Goshen College students Tuesday evening.

Posted on April 16, 2008 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 16, 2008 at 9:11 a.m.

GOSHEN -- After interviewing people in Michigan and Pennsylvania as part of an ongoing project on first-time voters, a CNN crew flew in to speak with Goshen College students Tuesday evening.

Out of about 50 applicants, seven students were hand-picked to help explain to CNN reporter Rick Sanchez -- and to the rest of the world -- what it means to be young, Mennonite and politically involved.

One of them was Sheldon Good, a junior business major from Telford, Pa.. Good, 21, mentioned before the taping that a historical view of Mennonites being politically passive may no longer be realistic.

"We're often regarded as being quiet in the land," Good said, "but it's important for us to offer our perspective in times such as these. Our perspective is valuable, and should be voiced and heard."

Good went on to say that the presidential election is becoming a social topic on campus, especially with the establishment of a campaign office for Sen. Barack Obama in Goshen.

"It's definitely a topic of dinner table conversation from time to time," he added.

Freshman Kenda Sprunger said before meeting with Sanchez that she wants to be politically involved because "it's important to be a part of something larger than yourself."

Sprunger, a 19-year-old premed student and Goshen native, said she's noticed a "definite" awareness amongst the school's students, of which about 60 percent are Mennonite. On campus, Sprunger's noticed activism in the form of discussion groups, notices on bulletin boards and Rock the Vote volunteers registering voters.

"I'd say the majority sort of has in mind for Obama," Sprunger said, "but nobody has been pushing a specific candidate when registering voters."

During the half-hour CNN taping, Sanchez and the students gathered in the Goshen College Church Chapel. As cameras rolled, the group discussed the Iraq war, international policy and the possibility of peace under hovering boom mics.

When Sanchez theorized about more Americans volunteering service time in a different country, each of the seven students agreed America would be different and better as a result.

Freshman Adriel Santiago, a 19-year-old from Lancaster, Pa., compared the college's required Study Service Terms to the difference between being a "tourist and a pilgrim" -- nearly 85 percent of student population participates in SSTs, ranking Goshen College seventh in the nation for the number of students going abroad on service trips.

This piece of the discussion struck a chord with Goshen College President James Brenneman, who watched the taping from the second floor.

"It really showed the power of their commitment to becoming global citizens," Brenneman said. "I think they represented themselves and the college magnificently."

Senior Rebecca Fast, who has both American and Canadian citizenship, will participate in her first U.S. election this year. She was pleased with the path the CNN discussion took.

"(Sanchez) asked great questions and I was really pleased he'd done his research," Fast, 22, said.

Sheldon Good was also happy with the message he and his peers helped send.

"Politics are still a matter of considering how it affects you," Good said, "as a person, you can't deny that. Mennonites aren't necessarily all liberal, but it's accepting a broader world view."

CNN's Sanchez said he and his crew traveled to Goshen to spotlight a group of people, and a religion, many Americans may not fully understand -- this visit comes after trips to University of Scranton, a Jesuit institution in Pennsylvania, and Spellman College, a historically black college in Atlanta.

"We're talking to a group of Americans a lot of people don't know about but will soon know a lot about," Sanchez said, "in their own words."

The CNN segment at Goshen College is set to air on the channel's "American Morning" on April 23, but will also be available on www.cnn.com.

Contact Katie Rogers at krogers@etruth.com.

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