By Fred Scarf, 18, Senior writer, Birmingham HS (2008 graduate)
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Fred says he’s excited to vote on Nov. 4. Go Obama!

Before last year I would hear adults talk about who they were voting for and why. Hearing their opinions inspired me to get informed and voice my own opinion. I care about what happens both locally and around the world and I care about the future I’ll leave for the next generation. I’m 18 and I want to give my vote to the person who I am confident will fix the problems the Bush administration is leaving behind like the Iraq war, the economy, global warming and problems in Afghanistan. Being informed is the only way I can be sure that I am voting for a person who will guide this country in the right direction.

First I had to find out who was running for president. Last fall, I went to It listed all of the candidates, had summaries of their policies and views, and showed how they were doing in the polls. Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton made good first impressions. I liked Romney for organizing the Winter Olympics and governing a liberal state (he is the former Republican governor of Massachusetts) and Clinton for her work as First Lady.

Once I got familiar with the candidates, I subscribed to Time magazine to understand more about who they were and their ideas. The articles in Time ranged from the candidates’ personal struggles to reactions to their speeches. The articles presented a balanced picture of each candidate and what they represented. As I learned more about each candidate, I began to form more solid opinions of them. For example, I

Illustration by Francisco Sandoval, 16, Nogales HS (La Puente)

thought Romney was a good leader but too out of touch with the average American. He defined the middle class as anyone who makes less than $200,000. I thought Barack Obama was charismatic but didn’t talk about specifics and was more about the big picture (my opinion has changed now). Sometimes the articles were like vitamins; they were dull but packed with important information. I kept on reading because I wanted to learn as much as I could.

E-mail alerts updated me with news

As the primaries came closer last winter, I used Yahoo! alerts, a service that forwards articles with certain keywords to my e-mail. I used the alerts because it was hard to find time to dig around and find the stories on my own. My keywords were Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. I was pretty confident that I was going to vote for a Democrat because I’ve always been a Democrat and I agree with most of the Democrats’ core values, but I still wanted to be informed about the Republicans. When I received a Yahoo! alert, I’d get the headline and a few-sentence summary of each article attached. This is where I learned about Romney’s controversial comments on the stock market (When share prices dropped, Romney said it was a great time to buy. I thought this showed he wasn’t thinking about the people who were suffering because of the bad economy) and Clinton’s gas tax holiday proposal (She proposed that the federal government suspend the collection of taxes on gas. I thought this was a terrible proposal).

Reading articles helped me get informed, but I felt like I could make better judgments if I could see the candidates debate. So I tried to watch as many debates as possible. I really enjoyed watching Clinton debate because I saw how confident she was. I liked her idea of having universal healthcare and her ideas to deal with immigration. By January I knew that I was going to vote for Clinton.

Seeing Clinton speak was inspiring

I went to a Clinton rally last February at Cal State Northridge. It was exciting to see her in person. When she came into the auditorium, everyone stood up and tried to shake her hand and take her picture. I stood up with everybody else. I held my hand out and was one of the lucky ones to shake her hand. She was just as impressive as she is on television. She took questions from the audience and answered them thoughtfully. It made me support her more because I felt the energy in the room when she was speaking.


• Be consistent: regularly read a magazine or newspaper like Time, Newsweek, The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times.
• Check out it’s a fair and balanced website.
• Watch CNN or visit; it’s a good source for unbiased news.
Find a favorite website, TV show or blog and just enjoy it. I like reading The Huffington Post and watching Real Time with Bill Maher.

After Clinton dropped out (violin playing), I was pretty sure that I would vote for Obama. I’m still  following the campaigns because I want to be confident in my vote and because the election is so interesting. I’ve mostly relied on Time and CNN to learn more about both John McCain and Obama. CNN doesn’t have a reputation for being as biased as other networks. While CNN is useful, it sometimes doesn’t cover the real issues. It often shows sound bites of speeches and comments from political analysts. Even though the analysts are insightful, I think they overanalyze and talk about pointless stuff, like the significance of Obama giving his wife, Michelle Obama, a fist bump before a  speech in June.

Getting informed was a little overwhelming because there are so many ways to learn about the candidates. I’m glad I found ways that worked best for me. I wouldn’t be informed if I’d just listened to other people because I don’t know where they’re getting their information from and their values may be different than mine. I’m surprised by how much I learned about myself just by engaging in this crazy process, like what I value and that I’m not as liberal as I thought I was. For example, I support states’ rights and would rather have a smaller government, which are things Republicans traditionally believe in. But I agree with Obama’s views on many issues and because I feel that he will bring our troops home and save our economy, I’m going to vote for him. I hope I’m making the right choice.

Other stories by this writer …

A cause close to my heart.
After his best friend died of a rare form of cancer, Fred, 17, was inspired to fight the disease. (March – April 2008)

An honest grade. Cheating is tempting when you see everyone else doing it, but Fred, 17, has chosen not to. (May – June 2007)

I’ll never forget, Shiri. Fred’s friend died of a rare form of bone cancer, but he remembers he best as a charming, fun "Tweety Bird" with a mischievous side. (September 2006)