Her participation in Georgia Tech’s Georgia Legislative Internship Program in the office of Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers – a Tech alum – along with stints as a communications intern in Governor Nathan Deal’s office and later as a legislative aide to Sen. Rogers, served to deepen the political passion Merry Hunter Hipp has always had. That passion led her to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in August: serving on the whip team of the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC) with the RNC page program.
“Because we’re in a red state, the governor nominates to the Republican convention, but I don’t think anyone, regardless of political party, would turn down such a chance,” said Hipp, a fourth-year public policy major from Macon.
Her experience included distributing convention materials, leading chants within the arena and managing logistics to aid the convention’s operation, as well as being tweeted by Mitt Romney and brushing elbows with celebrities in news and politics.
“I talked to Diane Sawyer and stood 3 feet from a presidential nominee. I’m a news hound, so I was like a 5-year-old there. Being part of the process was amazing,” she said.
As the only Yellow Jacket to participate in the 2012 RNC page program, her collegiate affiliation was met with surprise.
“Everyone was impressed, I think because Tech students are usually so focused on academics that we aren’t always as politically involved. But I think that’s starting to change.”
Last week, hundreds of students attended an outdoor viewing party of the first presidential debate hosted by Wreck the Vote, a student-run campaign organized to register students to vote and encourage them to actually cast their votes. Hipp has even seen interest among international students who may not be eligible to vote but want to be more aware of U.S. politics and processes.
“I follow politics for the people, not the party,” said Hipp, who calls her own political leanings undefined. She urges those who, like her, aren’t aligned with either the Republican or Democratic party to still research the candidates and decide who they think is better suited to be president.
“You may not be enthusiastic every time [you vote], but find out which candidate best fits what it is you want the future to look like. If you don’t cast a vote, you’re not taking charge of where the future is headed. Our system may be flawed, but I still think it’s the best.”
Hipp also urges students to file absentee ballots if needed; she filed her own first ballot as a registered voter from Metz, France, while studying abroad at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.