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Teen Delegate To Get Special RNC Birthday Gift

Amanda Vinicky

 A high-school senior from Downers Grove already has a notable life experience to brag about when he starts applying to college: the 17-year-old is part of Illinois’ delegation to the Republican National Convention. Three generations of his family are in Cleveland for the RNC.

Carl Miller is a senior at Timothy Christian, a private school in suburban Lemont.

He’s into meteorology love the weather; I like to storm chase,” Carl says.

According to his grandpa, who can’t help but brag, Carl is also on the academic scholastic team, got a high-scoring 34 on the ACT college entrance exam, and he’s number one in his class.

Also, he’s a political junkie; or maybe “2016 presidential candidate groupie” is the better term for it.

"We’ve traveled all over the Midwest to meet all the candidates," says his grandfather, Arthur Siml.

He’s exaggerating, slightly.

To clarify: grandfather and grandson traveled all over the Midwest to meet all of the Republican candidates.

It began, Arthur says, with Carl’s trip to the Iowa State Fair.

“He came back, he was very excited because he met some of the politicians, including his least favorite: Hillary. And had a picture. I said: Carl if you really want to meet these people, we’ll have to do some research and some planning,” he said.

And boy, did they

They got ticke.ts for the GOP primary debate in Milwaukee from Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and for the debate in South Carolina from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

"And then we traveled Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois. And we’d just go to the things. But we didn't want -- we wanted to be sure to meet the candidates. So we’d make big signs, and we’d always meet them when they’d go to their car, so that you could meet them one-on-one when they’re alone waiting for their staff to catch up," Arthur said. "And it was quite interesting because you don’t meet them when there's a thousand people there. You do meet them when they isolate themselves back at their vehicle. And so we’d go to even $1000 a plate dinners, and we'd just wait. And the people were very kind - sometimes they’d put us in the reception line, even though we couldn't afford it."

Arthur says it's been an adventure.

"At my age – 75 – I'd watch it on TV, but the opportunity to do it with my grandson was just memorable," he says.

These two didn’t just travel to political rallies and fundraisers.

They worked it. They'd schmooze with candidates' drivers, who'd help with access, or show campaign staff a scrapbook of their election-year travels. Plus, they'd have big, bright flashing signs.

At some point, Carl upped his involvement, and he signed on with the Republican candidate he liked most of all.

“And so I joined the Ted Cruz campaign as a volunteer in three states: Iowa, Illinois, my home state, and Wisconsin. And I got an internship for the campaign in Indiana. And then I got on board with my township organization. So through the Downers Grove Township Republicans, I became a precinct committeeman," Carl says.

That’s how he became a candidate in his own right, for a spot as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

At the state convention in Peoria in May, Illinois Republicans voted to make Carl an alternate delegate.

Alternates can go on the convention floor, so he was there and for the roll call when Illinois officially awarded its delegates, and helped to give Trump the nomination.

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Carl says that’s been his favorite, or most significant part anyway, of the experience so far.

Here’s been in Cleveland all week with his dad Rob Miller, who is also a "strong, conservative Republican," and with his grandpa, Arthur, who is also a Republican.

Carl isn’t sure what the future has in store, beyond a desire to study law and political science.

"I want to serve my country as best as I can, I want to advance the principles I believe in" he says. "I’m passionate about the constitution, about the rule of law. About the founding principels – the Judeau Christian values - that build this country."

Values like limited government.

"James Madison put if perfectly in The Federalist Papers when he said: 'If men were angels, no government would be necessary. And if angels governed men, then no restrictions on government would be necessary.' But the constitution balances that idea by creating three, coequal branches of government, that check each other and balance each other so as to limit the power and preclude a tyranny from developing."

All of this from a kid who, at 17, is too young to actually cast a vote for President, for a very short while longer.

Illinois has a law that lets 17 year-olds vote in the primary if they’re going to be 18 by the time the general election rolls around.

Carl was able to take advantage of that  (and so he voted for Cruz in the primary):  he'll ring in his 18th birthday on Friday, as his time as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention is coming to a close.

"And I couldn't ask for a better birthday present," he says.

Carl says he'll be casting a vote for Donald Trump.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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