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February 13, 2001

Parades and Politics

Politics has been part of Calvin senior Michelle Rudoni's life as long as she can remember. But at a younger age her political work was pretty basic.

"I've been involved in politics since I was four," says the Mt. Pleasant native. "My dad was a county commissioner and we would have to be in parades all the time."

Recently, however, Rudoni got a taste of a more fulfilling side of politics. Last semester she traded in course syllabi and textbooks for campaign memos, buttons, signs, picnics and, yes, even a parade or two as she served as the campaign manager for Rep. Dave Camp's re-election bid for Michigan's 4th congressional District.

Over the course of the summer and fall of 2000 she took on the formidable task of spreading Camp's traditional Republican message across 16 counties. Rudoni started working for Camp as a high school student. She then served for two summers as a staffer. In the spring of 2000, Camp asked her if she would take a semester off from Calvin (insisting too that she promise to return and graduate!) and become his campaign manager.

Rudoni credits Calvin Political Science Professor Doug Koopman (who worked for 15 years as a Congressional staff person) for helping convince her to take time off from school to run the campaign. His advice, she says, was on target. "My experience was the kind that you can't have in the classroom," says Rudoni.

A typical day on the campaign trail began for Rudoni about 8 a.m. and typically went until 10 or 11 at night. Planning fundraisers, enlisting the help of volunteers, organizing the mailing and writing of invitations and campaign directives, designing the campaign's Web site and representing the congressman at many different events were just a few of Rudoni's daily responsibilities. Among the highlights of her experience were a pair of visits to Saginaw, a major city in Camp's District, by then Governor George W. Bush. Rudoni helped coordinate rallies with the Bush Campaign and had a chance to meet the man who would become president.

There were also still those parades to deal with. "There were parades every weekend," she says with a smile, noting that Fourth of July weekend was a stern test of Camp's commitment to either be at a parade personally or have someone from the Campaign there to represent him.

Rudoni says the work would have been worthwhile win or lose. But she admits Camp's victory, with 68% of the total vs 29% for the next-highest challenger, added a sweetness to the experience that might have been missing had he been defeated. And after Camp's win she was able to spend Calvin's January Interim term in Washington, D.C., where she worked in his Congressional office, an experience she recalls as exciting and historic.

On track to graduate in May with a degree in political science and a minor in business, Rudoni plans to stay in politics. And she may even make a run for office herself one day. "I'm not ruling it out," she says. She continues to encourage fellow Calvin students to get involved in political campaigns. "If an opportunity presents itself like it did for me," she says, "take it!"

--written by media relations writer John VanderMeer (class of 2001)

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Contact Phil de Haan.