Student Spotlight: David Helfenbein

David Helfenbein Mark Stehle

YOUTH VOTE: Since his early teens, the Political Science/Communications
and Public Service senior has been an ardent supporter and campaigner for Hillary Rodham Clinton, first for her 2000 U.S. Senate campaign and now for the Democratic presidential nomination. “I met her first when I was 13 years old,” he says. “She came to my middle school for an immigration and naturalization ceremony.”

INSIDE MAN: After the ceremony, Helfenbein wheedled his way backstage, approached then-First Lady Clinton and offered to work on her Senate campaign. “That’s great, we’d love to have you,” she said. Helfenbein says he was impressed with Clinton after he received a phone call that very night from her office saying they would welcome his help.

KIDS’ CHOICE: Not content with just volunteering for Clinton, Helfenbein began searching for a way to have a greater impact. He came up with “Kids for Hillary,” a company of teenage Clinton supporters, which included many of his friends.

PRESIDENTIAL POP-IN: Both Clintons were invited to Helfenbein’s high school graduation party. Not long after the celebration ended, the doorbell rang. “The former president was at the door and he was carrying a gift and a note saying [Sen. Clinton] couldn’t be there, unfortunately,” Helfenbein says. “But she gave me a beautiful tie with eagles on it, which I still obviously have and it means a lot.”

WARM REGARDS: About what attracted him to the Clintons, Helfenbein points to their intellect, saying they are “the two brightest people I’ve ever met in my life. ... She is probably one of the warmest and most compassionate and considerate and caring people I’ve ever met in my life.”

EYEWITNESS TO POWER: Asked about the perks of having such high-powered friends, Helfenbein says, “I consider it an honor and I realize how fortunate I am. One of my friends the other day said to me, ‘Do you ever sit back and be like, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, all the time.’ I really do. It’s almost surreal sometimes.”

A HOUSE REUNITED: No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, Helfenbein says he is “absolutely” sure the Democratic Party will unite behind either Clinton or Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. “I think this is a good year for Democratic victory,” he says.

MR. (FUTURE) PRESIDENT?: “I love politics but I don’t know where it will take me,” he says. “Anyone who walks around at a very young age and says they’re going to be President of the United States is ridiculous because a lot of politics is hard work, but a lot of politics is also fate. I think that you can only plan so much in politics. So you kind of have to see where the journey takes you.”

Originally published March 27, 2008

Originally published on March 27, 2008