The story behind the boy who hugged Bernie
July 15, 2016
I’ve interviewed plenty of kids before. Some are A-OK being in front of the camera — they just pretend it’s invisible. Some get camera-shy, looking at their parents frantically with a deer-in-the-headlights sort of look as they hope to say the right words. In the background, parents start to act as teleprompters, mouthing words and praying that their kid has somehow learned how to perfectly read lips, when in fact that skill probably wasn’t covered in elementary school.
But this time, things were different. This interview, which lasted a mere one minute and 19 seconds, kept replaying in my head (and for good reason). Maybe it was his infectious spirit or the way he handsomely and earnestly danced with his words that captivated me. Or, it could have been his boldness as he confidently walked up to me, asking if he could speak to me on camera.
“Can I have an interview with you?” 11-year-old Christopher Proctor asked me.
“Sure! Just wait one moment,” I said.
I had previously interviewed a couple of kids at the rally (including some college students), but none had half of Proctor’s liveliness.
He approached me at the Bernie Sanders D.C. rally, and I wasn’t truly expecting him to know much about Sanders (or politics, for that matter). I wasn’t expecting him to dissect all of the candidates’ views with such precision. After all, it seemed to me the rising sixth grader had quite a few years to go before he would even get the chance to vote in the presidential election.
But age is truly but a number to Proctor, who stood near Sanders in the skatepark at The D.C. Armory. He was hoping for a handshake; a smile from the Vermont senator. Instead, Sanders responded by giving Proctor a hug.
This adorable kid walked up to me after Bernie Sanders’ rally. Wanted a handshake from Bernie, but got a hug instead pic.twitter.com/1J3hfqQB4n
— Amanda Florian (@Amanda_Florian) June 15, 2016
A couple retweets and shares later, I realized I didn’t know much about Proctor. I wanted to learn more; hear his opinions on the latest political news; find the story behind the story. So, like any good journalist does, I did some research and reached out to him for a follow-up interview.
With a blond skater look, Proctor, who hails from Clinton, Maryland, excitedly greets me as we begin to chat over Google Hangout. Wearing a neon-green shirt, he says he’s “a little bit like a typical 11-year-old.” He enjoys playing video games, jumping on the trampoline with friends and — oh, yeah — his “idol” is Bernie Sanders.
We begin to reminisce on Proctor’s most memorable moment last month: the Bernie hug.
“Oh my God,” he says with a laugh. “The first few seconds, I was just in pure awe and I honestly wanted to cry (happy tears).”
This is the one candidate, Proctor believes, who has his priorities in check.
“I really like how (Sanders) is not in this to become president; he is in the race so he can make the country a better place.”
Proctor has now attended two of Sanders’ rallies, but he says he wasn’t always this passionate about politics.
“My mother was really into politics. I don’t think I was mature enough to understand it until I became 10,” he says.
One of the reasons he loves the candidate? Sanders’ consistency.
“I really like that he’s the only person — I think — that tells the truth, the whole truth, all the time,” Proctor says.
His friends and 19-year-old brother don’t really engage in politics, but Proctor says he isn’t looking to push his views on any of them.
“It’s their own decision and I’m not indoctrinating them,” he says.
But last month’s D.C. primary results had Proctor feeling “kind of depressed.”
Clinton won with 78.7 percent of the votes.
“It’s a sad fact but the only thing that can save Bernie’s campaign is the voter fraud cases getting uncovered and the superdelegates changing their mind,” he says. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
He’s referring to the fraud cases in which, according to PBS Newshour, “tens of thousands of registered New York voters were found to be missing from the rolls.”
“If they don’t get uncovered, I believe that we should try our best to get the most progressive Hillary,” Proctor says.
Sanders officially endorsed Clinton on Tuesday.
And although Proctor welcomes the idea of a female president, he says he would not vote for her “just because she’s a woman.”
“I think that I definitely do want a female president, but I wouldn’t want her to be the first female president,” Proctor says. “I don’t think she’s that good. I think she’s just going to make sure that nothing happens. But that’s a bad thing because the middle class is having their slow death.”
The country needed somebody like Bernie in order to save the middle-class from that “slow death,” Proctor believes.
And for Proctor, it’s Sanders who seemed “more like an actual Democrat.”
But there is one candidate who scares Proctor even more so than Clinton: presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“Trump’s a very bigoted man and the internet has just flipped out over him. I honestly don’t think he’s a very safe person to run this country.”
Most of what Proctor knows about the candidate comes from personal research.
“(Trump) is very oversensitive. If you look at his Twitter, I think he takes insults way too personally, and he calls (people) ‘haters’ and ‘losers’ like an immature 10-year-old girl with a Twitter account.”
Speaking on the candidate, Proctor adds that his rhetoric has been “really upsetting.”
“I think the most depressing thing about him is how many votes and how many people support him. It’s really unfortunate.”
As the presidential race continues, Proctor hopes to be a “pushing factor” as he works to promote Sanders’ platform and policies.