My hand was raised, my body halfway out of my back-row seat, when Gov. John Kasich finally acknowledged me.
"I don't have any tickets for, you know, Taylor Swift or anything," he said, his eyes meeting mine.
The older members of the audience chuckled as my friends' jaws dropped to the floor. It was astonishingly clear that Gov. Kasich did not come to Richmond for my vote.
On Monday morning, hundreds of students and community members poured into the Jepson Alumni Center to ask questions of the presidential candidate. When my friends and I arrived, we were asked to sit in a special section directly behind where Gov. Kasich would speak. We declined, but other students filled the seats. It was clear they were put there for the cameras with the expectation that they wouldn't speak.
The candidate's opening statements painted a picture of an ambitious son of a mailman's rise to success, citing anecdotes about his college years, including one in which he met with President Nixon as a freshman. He continued on to give advice to students, lecturing on lack of spirituality and drug use. "I know I'm going to sound like your dad, but don't mess around with the drugs," he said.
While the lectures were condescending, the real issue was that Gov. Kasich chose not to listen to students in his forum. Most of the questions came from older members of the community, many vocalizing their support for Kasich before throwing him a softball question. Kasich barreled through a Planned Parenthood question, dismissing the young woman who posed it, and derided me when I had the audacity to raise my hand. Kasich came to Richmond to pander to retired Republicans. He could gain points by belittling me and my peers, so that's what he did.
What continues to strike me is the hypocrisy of his condescension. He touted his ambitious energy as an 18-year-old man, but as soon as I, an 18-year-old woman, exhibited ambition, I became the target of his joke. The same passion that drove Kasich to speak with President Nixon drove me to ask the candidate a question I care deeply about. In a way, I was taking the governor's advice: "Always ask."
In a half-hearted attempt to connect with young voters, Kasich entered the town hall forum with the 2014 hit song "Shut Up and Dance With Me" blasting from the speakers. While my friends all found it out of place, I realized that the song's title accurately reflects Kasich's message to young voters: shut up and elect me. If the candidate wants to connect with my peers, he can't do it through superficial pop culture references. If he wants our votes, he needs to listen to our voices and address the issues we care about. The president leads the country, not the VMAs, and it's insulting that the governor doesn't think we can distinguish between the two.
I didn't go to a town hall forum for Taylor Swift tickets, Gov. Kasich. I went because it's my civic duty to be an informed voter. Please start treating me like one.