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Flip-Flops, Rock and the Kerry Kids

While students, camera crews and local personalities like Mayor Rudy McCollum and VCU President Eugene Trani wait for them to arrive, uplifting rock songs — "Right Here, Right Now," "Start Me Up," "Living on a Prayer" — play over the din of chatter, which erupts into applause when the guests of honor arrive.

Passing the mike among them, the four make brief speeches about John Kerry's plans for tuition reimbursement, jobs and tax cuts, and how close the race was in 2000. They echo the sentiments of political talk show host Chris Matthews on a recent episode of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" when they say that the election is a definitive choice between two starkly opposed plans with effects that would span decades.

They also insist that Virginia is not lost to the Republicans. "Just think of how cool it would be if you were part of the Virginia election that swung the state to the other side," Alexandra Kerry says.

When the audience gets its chance at the mike, statements range from heated questioning to political commentary.

"You can hear my voice and hear my accent and know that I am new to this country," one audience member says to those gathered. "And you can know I did not buy anything Arnold Schwarzenegger said last night."

Another student apologizes for prematurely titling Kerry president. The Kerry-Edwards children, well-schooled and horsing around on stage, know an opportunity when they hear one. Vanessa Kerry seizes the moment: "President Kerry has such a good ring to it." — Wayne Melton

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