The babies who got kissed by presidential candidates: Luke Ervin ’14
Those babies who got kissed by presidential candidates? Here’s who they became.
“Here is a beautiful specimen of young American childhood,” Andrew Jackson declared as he examined a dirty-faced baby handed to him at a campaign stop in the early 1800s. It would have been the beginning of the most sacred of campaign traditions, baby kissing, except Jackson foisted the boy on a nearby politician with a directive, “Kiss him,” and scooted away.
We know, of course, why moments with children are such a part of campaigning: It’s humanizing for the candidate. But we generally don’t know about the lives these babies and children go on to lead, or how they ended up in the political spotlight in the first place. Here are four stories of the anointed few.
Luke Ervin ’14
Luke Francis Ervin was a serious-minded baby. When he was told to eat, he ate. When he was told to sleep, he slept.
This is the same intensity that Luke brought to a chance encounter with presidential candidate Bill Clinton on July 21, 1992. He had a habit of making strong eye contact with the people around him, and Clinton was no exception. In this sea of constituents, handlers and photographers, Luke appears to be the only one really looking closely to see who this man is.
His aunt, Mary Rodgers, had brought the 5-month-old along as she dropped her daughter off at volleyball camp. That morning Rodgers didn’t know that the Clinton team had set up at Seneca High School, in Louisville. Luke made his national debut in a primary-colored onesie covered in jaunty baseball players — the backup in case of vomit.
After the photo was snapped, Clinton delivered a peck on the infant’s bald head and returned him to Rodgers. Luke’s aunt was already leaning toward voting for Clinton, but the intense spark between the candidate and her nephew solidified her conviction.
Twelve days before, Clinton had chosen Sen. Al Gore as his running mate. Six days after that, the Democratic National Convention officially nominated them to the ticket. Then, for nearly a week, the pair and their spouses toured the American heartland. The Louisville stop was on the docket for the next-to-last day.
Ervin, of course, has no memory of these events. But he decided to take a close look at Clinton once again in 2013. When his history professor at Centre College in Danville, Ky., assigned a research paper on a topic of his choosing, Ervin decided to look into why Clinton’s approval ratings ascended in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (“It turns out that Clinton was holding and kissing people other than just babies such as myself at campaign events,” he wrote in the introduction.) He ended up presenting it at the 2014 Kentucky Political Science Association annual meeting.
Today, Ervin, 24, is in his final year of law school at the University of Louisville, following in his father’s footsteps. He plans to vote for Hillary Clinton but isn’t sure what to expect from Bill should he become the first first gentleman. “Hopefully he … will be very supportive of Hillary and doesn’t cause any distractions,” he said.
by May–Ying Lam for the Washington Post
October 6, 2016
(c) 2016, The Washington Post,
reprinted with permission
Photo: Luke Ervin was 5 months old when he was photographed with presidential candidate Bill Clinton in Louisville, Ky., during a 1992 campaign event. (William DeShazer/For The Washington Post)