Freshman Sina Kevin Nazemi interviewed President Clinton one-on-one when Nazemi was in the sixth grade. Scheduled to last just eight minutes, the interview lasted half an hour and aired nationally as an NBC Special Report.
“Right then, that’s what triggered my interest in politics,” says Nazemi, whose goal is to become a Washington lawyer and whose dream is to become a U.S. Senator.
At age 11, he was a student at the Fairview Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri, and he was enrolled in a collaborative class in TV news production with the local NBC news station, KOMU-TV. The class assignment was to interview someone. Nazemi wanted to interview President Clinton, but his teacher said, “It’s just not an option.” He says: “I thought, Well, I think it is.”
The next day, he walked into class with the draft of a letter that said, “Dear Mr. President: I’d like to interview you. I’m in the sixth grade, and the story will be broadcast on Channel 8.”
“When I didn’t get an answer, I began calling the White House every day before school and every day when I got home.” Unknown to his mother, he says, he called dozens of times.
“I called again, and again, and again until finally they connected me to David Anderson, director of Media Affairs at the White House. After three weeks of constant calls, Anderson told me that Clinton wasn’t coming to Missouri, but that he would be in Cleveland, Ohio, if I wanted to fly out.” The TV station paid for the trip. Later, Anderson told Nazemi he was amazed by his persistence. “I just didn’t think that interviewing the President was impossible,” Nazemi says.
“That was a real pivotal moment for me. Right then, I realized that if you put your mind to anything, you can do it. The other kids were telling me it’ll never happen, but in my mind, I thought if I start with a dream I’ve got to continue and I did. From then on something may seem impossible, but I’ll give it a try.
“It changed me from a person who looks at things and says, ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ to a person who says, ‘Wow, that’s amazing, and I can do those amazing things.'”
Served as a page
In eleventh grade, he served as a page in the U.S. Senate for six months. The staff elected him head page.
He met King Hussein of Jordan, the President of South Korea, and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. He met billionaire Bill Gates, Sen. Bob Dole, former President Gerald Ford, and Vice President Al Gore. Once Sen. Strom Thurmond of S. Carolina took him out for ice cream.
“Being a page was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’m passionate about government service, because I think I can make a difference. I’m determined to be a proactive citizen,” says Nazemi, who is not just a talker but a doer. At his high school, he founded and was president of Give 100, a program aimed at getting students to give 100 hours of community service.
Born in Iran, Nazemi moved to the U.S. at age six. “The greatest gift I ever received was the gift of opportunity when my parents moved here and gave up everything,” he says. “I’ve received a lot from this country and from this world, and I think I owe it to the people who’ve given me a lot and to the future generation to help them out however I can.”
Off to Washington
His goal is to major in economics or political science, go to law school and then run for U.S. Senate. He chose MIT, he says, because being versed in science and technology will make him a more well-rounded person in the nation’s capital.
“We have all these lawyers in Washington who have history backgrounds, and who argue everything based on second-hand analysis of science and technology. We’re in the middle of a technological revolution that will significantly change our lives. It would be great if we had more lawmakers versed in science and technology.
“I’m passionate about making this world a better place,” he says. “Many people don’t care about the world, but democracy is not a spectator sport. You have to play a role if you want things to get better. A leader rises up and says, care, it does matter — yes, you can make a difference — and let’s do it.”