Saturday, July 5, 2008

San Ramon teen off to Congress

SAN RAMON — Among the TV channels Shahryar Abbasi watches for fun is C-SPAN, the cable channel devoted to meetings of Congress and other governmental bodies.

But this summer, the San Ramon teen will be seeing those meetings live and in person. He will be part of the Washington action as one of 68 youths chosen for the U.S. House of Representatives page program. The monthlong program begins Sunday.

"I'm trying to see (it) all from a political standpoint," said Abbasi, who will be a senior at Monte Vista High in Danville this fall.

Pages have duties such as answering phones, delivering correspondence and preparing the floor with tasks such as putting up displays, said Andy Stone, a spokesman for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, who sponsored Abbasi's application.

The pages work for all House members, not just the ones that sponsored them, Stone said. The 435 House members are eligible to nominate students on a rotating basis, with the Speaker of the House making the final decisions in the nonpartisan program.

This year, the first time McNerney made nominations, his office received 16 applications from students for the summer program. His office nominated two, Stone said. The Senate has its own page program.

Abbasi said he will receive about $1,200 (after deductions) for his work. He will live in a dorm with other pages and receive free meals.

He is paying for his own transportation to Washington, D.C.

Abbasi, Advertisementwho participates in programs such as speech and debate, Model United Nations and mock trial at his school, said he is interested in seeing "electioneering for pork barrel legislation."

"Since I've been growing up, I've been interested in news," he said. "A lot of my friends and I have political discussions on socioeconomic issues."

With the presidential election coming up in November, Abbasi said he is getting more interested in domestic issues. But his main interest is foreign affairs. Part of that, he said, is because he is from another country.

He is the second of four children of a bank's vice president of technology and a physician turned software technician. His family moved to the United States from Pakistan when he was young. They lived in Pleasanton until he was in middle school, when they moved to San Ramon.

"So many countries have so many different political agendas," said Abbasi, who is interested in how those views converge.

Abbasi, a self-described center to left Democrat, said he is open to the different domestic political beliefs, though many of the politicians he would like to meet are Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He also would like to meet former Republican presidential candidate and Texas House member Ron Paul.

"I'm not going to have a bias," he said.

His mom, Bushra Shahid, said it will be a great opportunity for her boy.

"These are people who are experienced leaders of our country," she said.

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