Like millions of other Americans, Colin Cagle viewed President Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28.
Unlike most, the 13-year-old Odessa resident, attended Trump’s speech in Washington D.C.
He was the invited guest of U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.
That fact is even more impressive, considering each member of congress was allotted just one extra ticket for Trump’s address.
Cagle, a seventh-grader at Martinez Middle School, was thrilled to receive the rare invitation.
“I was just extremely thankful, and I was in shock. I was so surprised,” Cagle, said.
Bilirakis first became aware of Cagle when his family requested tickets for President Trump’s Inauguration on Jan. 20. (Though Bilirakis’ office was out of tickets, Rep. Dennis Ross was able to pitch in.)
Cagle and Bilirakis have remained in touch, and the congressman became enthralled by the youth’s keen passion for politics.
That was furthered once Bilirakis’ office came across a 6 ½-minute NBC News feature on Cagle’s political interests and ideology.
Cagle, an unabashed Trump supporter, left the address content with the president’s remarks on strengthening the military and unifying the country.
“He put out plans that I know that both Democrats and Republicans can all stand behind,” Cagle said. “Overall, it was very presidential, and it was an amazing experience.”
The teenager’s visit to Washington D.C. also included tours of the U.S. Capitol Building, the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress. “It was really awesome,” he said.
Though Cagle always has had an interest in politics, his curiosity peaked following the Feb. 2016 death of his 75-year-old grandfather, Lyndon Hooper.
According to Cagle’s mother, Sharri, the youth’s grandfather was “extremely involved” in politics, assisting with numerous campaigns, including former Republican Congresswoman Katherine Harris.
Following his grandfather’s death, Cagle closely monitored the 2016 presidential race, heavily researching the hot-button issues.
Trump’s position on health care reform and immigration were two of many Cagle agreed with.
“I kind of formed my own opinions, and they happened to match up with President Trump’s,” Cagle explained.
He then put his conservative principles in action.
Prior to the election of the 45th president, Cagle volunteered at Republican call centers in Carrollwood, Brandon and Orlando.
He also attended three of President Trump’s campaign rallies in Tampa, Lakeland and Ocala.
Being such an open Trump supporter has come with some challenges, however.
Cagle’s mother acknowledged her son has received “a lot of backlash.”
Yet, he’s stood firm in his viewpoints.
“I’m proud of him,” she said. “I think that’s important to stand with your convictions, and not waver when you believe in something, and not change who you are depending on who you’re with,” he said.
She added: “I know how ugly politics can be. So, we try to use things as a learning experience for him, and he’s seen the good and the bad.”
Cagle said he hopes one day to make a difference in politics, perhaps as a senator or congressman.
“I’d like to work for a congressman when I’m in college, so that way I can get some hands-on experience,” he said. “I just like how all the congressman and senators are running to make a difference, to help our country be better.”
With plans to start a Young Republicans Club at Martinez Middle, his passion for government and politics doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon.
“He spends so much time and effort learning the issues at hand, and trying to base his opinion on facts,” his mother said. “We just tell him to be open-minded, listen to both sides, and base your opinion on facts, and try not to engage in ugliness.”
Meanwhile, the young conservative remains pleased with President Trump, less than two months in office.
“Everything he’s said he’s going to do, he’s doing it,” Cagle said. “He’s not really backtracking. Obviously, he’s going to have to make some compromises, which is what he’s saying. But, he’s still sticking to the main principles of what he said he’s going to be doing.”
Published March 8, 2017