If you told Satchel Strout on Wednesday that he would attend a presidential debate, he would’ve thought you were joking.
Even at 3:30 p.m. Thursday he wasn’t sure he would make it to the event that evening because the 13-year-old’s flight didn’t land in Nashville until 3 p.m. and he needed to get tested for COVID-19 before heading to Belmont University.
But by 10 p.m. Thursday night, Satchel was elated. Attending a presidential debate is a special event for most people, but for Satchel, it is especially significant.
Someday, Satchel wants to be president.
“I’ve always wanted to become president because I feel like there’s so much divisiveness in our political system that we need a leader who would be more about uniting people and be more open to people’s ideas,” Satchel told The Tennessean by phone after the debate.
When he was a toddler, Satchel ate his meals off a presidential placemat. It listed the presidents in order chronologically and he quickly memorized them.
Satchel was excited to be in the audience Thursday night as Republican President Donald Trump and former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off on stage for the last time before Election Day.
But Satchel wasn’t there to support one candidate over another.
He thinks politics are too partisan. If he was president, he said he’d make an effort not to divide people based on their political party affiliations.
“I think a lot of leaders want to try to help but I also feel like a lot of our leaders are too partisan right now,” Satchel said. “Some of the things I would do is that I would not judge people based on their party but I would judge them based on their leadership qualities and how good of a person they are.”
One of the top issues Satchel would like to address is poverty and helping support people who find themselves in impoverished situations. He also is concerned about people with special needs.
One of Satchel’s little sisters has autism and is nonverbal. Growing up with a sister with special needs, Satchel said it’s not something he hears a lot of politicians talk about.
As for the debate itself Thursday night, Satchel thought it was a good balance of the candidates attacking each other as well as talking about policy.
“I was pretty impressed,” Satchel said. “I think that part of the debate that I’ll remember the most is probably (them) talking about the coronavirus. It’s a really important argument if we think our country should be open or closed.”
Satchel’s father, Steve Strout, was just happy to help make one of his boy’s dreams come true. The Strouts used to live in Franklin but moved to Inlet Beach, Florida a few years ago.
When Belmont University was selected in 2019 to host one of the 2020 presidential debates, Steve Strout reached out to Belmont University President Bob Fisher and told him about Satchel and his son’s political aspirations.
After the debate, Steve Strout was glad he got to share the experience with his son.
“I think as a parent you hope to find whatever they are passionate about and kind of lean into that,” Steve Strout said. “You know how interested he is in politics, the debate is about as big a thing you can get to make happen. I’m very grateful to Belmont for making it happen.”
In the coming weeks, Satchel plans to tag along with his parents when they cast their votes and maybe one day they’ll cast one for him.
Meghan Mangrum covers education in Nashville for the USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.