It was ponytails meets Polident as Leisure World Seal Beach's Clubhouse No. 2 played host to an Orange County Tea Party for Teens on Wednesday night. Hosted by the 405/605 and Leisure World Seal Beach chapters of the Tea Party Patriots, the invitations were not sent out by mistake – the local chapters sought to infuse youth with their small-government message. The teens saw it another way.
“We invaded Seal Beach,” said Orange County GOP youth associate and Canyon High School senior Austin Williamson.
The normally reserved Williamson stepped out of his shell to play the role of press contact for the event. He might have stumbled into the role, but even the Dana Perinos (George W. Bush’s press secretary) of the world had to start somewhere.
“(Republican Party of Orange County First Vice Chair Deborah) Pauly asked me if I would put together the flyer and then asked me if I would be the primary contact on it,” Williamson said. “How could I say no?”
Pauly joined teen Tea Party sensation Caleb Yee as the evening’s keynote speakers. Yee founded the first high school Tea Party club in the country, the A-Team Youth, at Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights where Yee will return next fall for his senior year. He has spoken publicly at such prominent Tea Party events as the Tax Party Rally Day in Sacramento and the American Policy Summit in Phoenix. Though many in the crowd were old enough to be Yee's grandparents by age, he ignited the audience with his bold political rhetoric and razor-sharp wit.
Recently-formed Orange County rockers Out of the Ashes covered songs by popular bands like Mumford and Sons and John Mayer along with patriotic ballads such as “Proud to be an American” and “God Bless America,” eliciting an equal mix of teens jamming and dancing and seniors inserting fingers into their ears. Nonetheless, John Passaini of the 405/605 Tea Party Patriots welcomed the idea of bringing the band of under-20-somethings back for another rally.
“Maybe at an outdoor rally next time,” Passaini said.
Passaini hoped for a larger turnout of youth at the event with an expectation that more members could convince their grandchildren to take an active role in social government. About 180-200 people attended, and about 30 were teens. But on the whole, he considered Wednesday's event a great success, especially since those teens who attended displayed a wealth of passion for the cause.
One of those teens, Tyler Warman, president of the Canyon High School Republican Club, donned a gray T-shirt baring the likeness of Ronald Reagan and the slogan “Bringing Back Conservatism.” Warman was attending just his second Tea Party rally, and he was pleased to witness even the modest turnout of his peers who attended the event.
“A lot of students don't realize the impact of government on their lives,” said Warman. “Government can hire and fire teachers and determine the contents of textbooks. Politics run their lives, even if they don't realize it.”
And though Warman counted himself among those frustrated, politically savvy minors who are forced to watch others cast votes in November, he takes pride and satisfaction in knowing that he will be able to cast a ballot in the California Republican primaries next year.