Voices of a generation: Vermillion couple involved in Republican convention Ryan and Jennifer Knutson, both students at The University of South Dakota, traveled to Philadelphia two weeks ago to be a part of South Dakota's 22 delegates and 22 alternates at the Republican National Convention. They were among the five alternates from South Dakota who are still in college and were the youngest married couple there. by M. Jill Karolevitz Ryan and Jennifer Knutson, both students at The University of South Dakota, want to be involved in the future of their country. To most, that means studying political issues, candidates� campaigns and making a choice in the voting booth.
To the Knutsons, getting involved means a trip to the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
After going through the process of the county, regional and state Republican caucuses, Ryan was elected as an alternated delegate. Jennifer was later named to the same status because �some alternates couldn�t attend the convention,� she said.
Ryan and Jennifer traveled to Philadelphia two weeks ago to be a part of South Dakota�s 22 delegates and 22 alternates at the Republican National Convention. They were among the five alternates from South Dakota who are still in college and were the youngest married couple there.
�I�ve always been intrigued by politics,� said Ryan, a Vermillion native. �It started when I was 13. By chance, I attended the Teenage Republican summer camp in the Black Hills and found out at a really young age that I like politics.�
Ryan went on to become the state Teenage Republican chairman in 1996, and attended the Republican National Convention that year as a page. Since attending USD, he has been instrumental in working to increase membership in the USD College Republicans.
�I was chairman last year,� he said. �And our membership has increased from 15 to about 100.�
Angie Nielsen, another USD student who was named as a South Dakota alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention, is chairman this year.
�She has really worked hard for USD College Republicans,� Ryan said.
Since his first experience at a Republican National Convention, Ryan has always wanted to go again. He�s happy he reached that goal, but realizes he couldn�t do it alone.
�I wouldn�t have been able to go without help from the Farber Fund,� he said. �I received a grant for the trip and I have Dr. (William O.) Farber and Dr. (William D.) Richardson to thank.�
Ryan�s interest in politics has influenced Jennifer�s increased involvement. But she also knows how important it is for her generation.
�Somebody our age needs to have a voice,� she said. �I used to be a student who didn�t care, but Ryan got me interested and involved.�
Ryan and Jennifer are true George W. Bush supporters.
�I firmly believe in him � he�s the right man for the president�s job,� Ryan said. �I thought that as early as January or February. He really unites our party. He�s kind of conservative without the rough edges and hard images of the past and does not compromise on how the party stands on issues. He matches a lot of my beliefs � pro-business, pro-family, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-freedom.�
�He also connects with people � both from different generations and minorities,� Jennifer added. �I definitely think that it�s important to have a president who everyone can relate to. I also like him because he�s truly compassionate and conservative.�
Ryan and Jennifer celebrated their first anniversary in Philadelphia at the convention. They were married July 30, 1999. Ryan, a political science/economics major, will graduate next May. He plans to go on to graduate school to study law or business. Jennifer, originally from Kansas City, KS, will receive an associate degree in sociology next May. She will work while Ryan attends graduate school, then finish her bachelor�s degree.
While in Philadelphia, the couple also toured the city, visiting Independence Hall, Chinatown and the Liberty Bell. They attended PoliticalFest, an interactive museum featuring political memorabilia, and attended various social events for delegates, including a luncheon hosted by South Dakota�s U.S. Congressman John Thune.
�The luncheon was on the same train that Bush used on his whistle-stop campaign tour,� Jennifer said.
The Knutsons also enjoyed visiting with other South Dakota Republicans and party leaders, including Governor Bill Janklow and State Speaker of the House Roger Hunt.
Both Ryan and Jennifer were impressed with Philadelphia.
�There�s no better place for a convention because of its historical significance,� Ryan said.
Speeches throughout the convention were also memorable. Jennifer was impressed by John McCain�s graciousness in defeat and the rousing address given by Condoleeza Rice, Bush�s black female national security expert.
�The convention experience made me feel proud to be an American and proud to be a Republican,� Jennifer said. �It was exciting to be a part of this. It was an incredible experience. I came home with a patriotic feeling and I�m really excited. We feel we have the best man for the job.�
�Now we�ll campaign for Bush through our region up to the election in November,� Ryan said. �Part of our responsibility as delegates and alternates is to make sure he wins South Dakota.�