Watts High School Students Speak Out on Presidential Campaign

Tens of thousands of people will cast their first ballot next year. KPCC's special correspondent Kitty Felde spoke with a group of these new voters: seniors at King Drew Medical Magnet High School in Watts.

Kitty Felde: About half the students in Karl Graeber's AP Economics and Government class will turn 18 by the November election. A handful will be old enough to vote in the February 5th primary. But nearly all have been paying attention to the Presidential race. The discussion began with the debate over the role of religion in politics.

Michael Juarez: Michael Juarez. I believe religion should be omitted from any presidential election. I believe the best candidate should be the one with the clearest ideas, a better view of the future, right?

Ezinne Ihenachor: I'm Ezinne Ihenachor. I think that you should consider their personal life and their religious practices, just as you should consider the ideas that they have.

David Anderson: David Anderson. If there was a candidate, for example, that was a Buddhist, then I know for sure that I wouldn't vote for him, just because it's so different, the views, their views are so different from that of what I was, grew up in, and what I'm accustomed to.

Luis Candelaria: Luis Candelaria. Religion hasn't really done much for society as a whole. It's just, like Vladimir Lenin said, it's an opiate for the masses. It's supposed to keep people calm and suppressed while other people do whatever they want with them.

Chinenye Muo: Chinenye Muo. The most important thing to me is, how are you going to run our country? What are you going to do for me? You know, concerning my college education, concerning the poor in this country which people don't pay enough attention to, concerning the war that's going on.

Brittany Armstrong: Brittany Armstrong. I totally agree. The war is a major issue right now, and it's affecting us with gas prices, and it's affecting, we're in debt!

Anderson: David. One day, we were in class, and Mr. Graber told us how much we were in debt, and it was, like, in the trillions of dollars. And I was just wondering, well, man, if it continues at this pace, by the time I'm actually grown and have my kids, like, that's gonna affect us in so many ways, as far as like, taxes.

Rashawn Ross: Hi, my name is Rashawn Ross. Um, a couple of months ago, we all know that Hillary Clinton came to our school, and she came with Magic Johnson, and my perspective about that was like, she tried to bring somebody that we all look up to as African-Americans so we can vote for her, and I just wanted to ask the class, do you all that was like, OK? Did you all like that, or, what do you all have to say about that?

Jamila Jones: Jamila Jones. Of course, you know, Magic Johnson is like, Lakers. Everybody in L.A. loves Magic, and Starbucks everywhere, and like (laughs) there's Fridays and everything, like, he's brought a lot to our community. I think that was a smart move, just like Barack Obama being on Oprah to try to appeal to middle class Caucasian people, or middle class people, is smart. I wouldn't penalize them for using media to get themselves known. That's the quickest way to office. Like, if people see you, of course they're gonna, "Oh, I saw him on blah. I think he's a great guy. I'm gonna vote for him." As opposed to, "Who else is running?"

[Laughs, student says "Exactly!"]

Darrin Norwood: My name is Darrin Norwood. People don't even do research about the candidates, extensive research. All they know is what they see on TV.

Jones: I'm Jamila again. This is gonna be my first year voting, and I don't want to make a decision like my brother did, or anybody else, just because my mom said "Oh, they're good," so you go and vote the way your mom does. That's not your vote, that's your mother's vote. I want to make a decision on my own. I want to, like, take my part in deciding who's gonna run the country that I live in. So that's the reason why I've been looking around, and watching interviews on YouTube, and researching on Google, trying to figure out who is the best person that promotes what I think is best for the country as a whole.

Felde: Students of Karl Graeber's AP Economics class at King Drew Medical Magnet High School in Watts.