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The Breeze: “A Problem Solver” Ben Kaplan, 18-year-old with an intent for change


by Nathan Grutchfield

Ben Kaplan
Ben Kaplan

Recent U-32 graduate Ben Kaplan met with The Bridge in early August to discuss his experience of being a candidate in the Democratic primary election for Vermont State Representatives.

Energetic and confident, Kaplan answered questions along the lines of, “What issues are at the forefront of your philosophy,” and “What have you done in the past to prepare yourself for the position.”

Kaplan discussed his past participation in politics, having been a page at the Vermont State House in eighth grade, then having paged in Washington, D.C. for Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. The latter experience was eye-opening for Kaplan, especially in teaching him the role of “tradition” on a national scale, as well as partisanship, although he introduced this on a somewhat separate note. It seems Kaplan intends to be a politician who, though a Democrat, is “running for all of us” as State Representative, as were his words when describing an encounter when going door-to-door during his campaign.

Meanwhile, Kaplan wrote on his campaign pamphlet, given to me during the interview, “It is often discussed how an idea, policy, or law, will affect the next generation. Well, I am a member of that generation.” Again on that pamphlet, he describes his plan as bringing a fresh-yet-developed view of how Vermont could be a better place to practice as State Representative. That vision and that change would, according to Kaplan, apply to three areas in particular: First, sustainable, innovative energy. Second, Vermont’s ability to “attract and retain the next generation of minds.” Third, the quality of economic institutions.

Those regions of his agenda are clear to see, from the general public audience. From a first-hand conversation, Ben Kaplan continues with that message, but through recollection of his experiences he illuminates which beliefs or values have arisen, and what has caused them to emerge.

One example is positivity. Without being “starry-eyed,” Kaplan put it, but also without going into a project with the intention of  ‘why can’t this work?’ and rather, ‘How can this happen?’ This likely is an approach that Kaplan has used in the past, and implies he will use in the future.

Kaplan values change, or seems to, and in his recollection of paging on a national scale, holds the recognition of tradition as something that many would want to preserve, whereas he would include the intent of instigating positive change in our state a firm part of his agenda.

We asked Kaplan, who will begin school at Columbia University, what he wants to study there. He says that part of the reason he chose the school was to have a wide variety of options, since he is at the moment unclear what exactly he will pursue, but he did mention that being a “problem-solver” is something with which he currently identifies.

Regardless of how Kaplan would fare as a leader in these changes, and how he would implement his values, it is clear that the 18-year-old has a bright mind, a calm handling of outside investigation and certainly a fresh perspective when it comes to current, relevant issues.

(Kaplan came in fourth place out of five Democratic candidates in the primary elections August 9)