CLEVELAND — At 18, Jack Pickett is the youngest of the 44 Washington delegates, and is one of the youngest delegates at the Republican National Convention.
“Politics is my hobby,” Pickett said. “Sports is someone else’s hobby, and video games is another person’s hobby, so mine’s politics.”
While plenty of people his age are vacationing and relaxing on summer break, Pickett said he wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than the RNC.
“For me, being involved in politics is just a lot more exciting than being at the beach and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s my passion, and so it was hardly a burden coming here to Cleveland.”
While Pickett said this experience will benefit him for the rest of his life, his young age doesn’t come without disadvantages in the political world.
“I think as a younger delegate and as a younger person facing a political realm in general, you face a little bit of people not necessarily taking you as seriously as they may take an older delegate,” Pickett said.
Despite its drawbacks, his age has its benefits as well, Pickett said. Surrounded by delegates and politicians with years of experience has allowed him to learn from and observe political veterans, he said.
Pickett’s interest in politics began as a child. Growing up, his family would always get into passionate discussions about politics.
This past spring, Pickett decided to take that interest a step further and become a precinct committee officer (PCO) for his district. Under this role, he knocked on neighbors’ doors, and tried to get them to vote — and to vote Republican.
“Becoming a PCO really wasn’t very difficult at all,” Pickett said. “It kind of took me by surprise, actually. I got in contact with my county chairman just wanting to know what it takes to go to the national convention, and the next day she was in my kitchen helping me fill out the paperwork to become a PCO.”
A few months later, Pickett ran for a delegate spot in his district. After giving speeches and going through two rounds of balloting, the politicians in his district voted Pickett and two others delegates to represent their area at the RNC.
“Our [delegates] job is to make sure that we really see the ideals of the people that elected us presented in the platform rules and in our nominee, so that’s what I’m here for,” he said.
While he is the youngest delegate in his district and his state, Pickett is not the only teenage delegate or young politician at the RNC. He said he has connected with the other Millennials via social media and in person.
“I’ve been shocked at the number of young Republicans I’ve seen walking around the convention here and I think our views are different here,” he said. “The things that we [Millennials] value are different than the current in power.”
These differing views come in the way each generation approaches the political scene. According to Pickett, the Republican Party has always been viewed as the party of “no you can’t.” Millennials, he said, encompass the perspective of the Republican Party having opportunity, prosperity and progress.
“It’s important to have our rhetoric match our ideals,” Pickett said. “When we do that, I think millennials will see that this is the party of progress and they will join this movement wholeheartedly.”
Millennials, he said, are a vital piece to this election. Pickett hopes to give his generation a voice within the party.
“Everything that I’ve seen has just really shown me that for better or for worse, there’s room for our generation in politics,” Pickett said. “I’m excited to be on the forefront of that.”
According to Pickett, discussing politics with people his age at the RNC is a bit different than talking politics with his friends at home. His friends at home, he said, don’t know much about the political scene.
“I think a lot of (my friends) really don’t exactly know what (the RNC) means,” Pickett said. “They’re like, oh cool, but don’t necessarily know what it means. They’ve been really supportive, though, and for a lot of them, it’s very similar to going to state for a basketball tournament, or being the champion of your debate team.”
Although Pickett initially didn’t plan to vote for Donald Trump, he said the party needs to stand behind Trump to beat likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“I will be doing everything I can to stop her from being president and if that means voting for Trump, that’s what I’ll be doing,” he said. “As sad as that makes me, that’s how I will be casting my ballot in November.”
Politics aside, Pickett said this experience has been everything he had imagined it would be and more. It has “sealed the deal” in confirming that he wants to eventually run for public office sometime in his future.
“It’s really surreal. It’s really shocking to see larger than life characters just up on stage and walking around on the delegation floor,” he said.
When his term ends with the RNC on Thursday, he will attend the University of Washington in the fall, where he’ll be majoring in political science.
This story was jointly reported by The Pendulum and Elon Local News.