When Massachusetts resident Alena Mulhern learned that she wasn’t eligible to run for President of the United States, she didn’t take it lying down: The 10-year-old is fighting to change the Constitution, so that she and others like her can vie for a seat at the White House. When I was Mulhern’s age, the extent of my civic engagement was to campaign for the blue M&M to replace the boring tan one, so, needless to say, this girl is seriously impressive.
Mulhern was born in China and became a U.S. citizen when she was adopted at 10 months. Although she has spent almost her whole life in the U.S., she isn’t eligible to be president due to regulations in the Constitution that require presidents and vice-presidents to be natural born citizens. Last Wednesday, Mulhern testified at the Massachusetts State House to argue that the current eligibility rules for the presidency should be overturned, saying, “We should all have the opportunity to run for president.”
Section One of Article Two of the U.S. Constitution states,
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.
Although the Constitution doesn’t define “natural born Citizen,” the phrase has been interpreted to refer to people who were U.S. citizens at birth, who therefore have not had to go through any kind of naturalization process to gain citizenship. (Other requirements include being at least 35 years old and having lived in the U.S. for 14 years. That means that, if Mulhern’s campaign were successful, she would be eligible to run for president in 2040).
Mulhern’s mother, Barbara Mulhern Caparell, told CBS Boston that when her daughter said she wanted to be president some day, she had to give her bad news: “I said to her honey, unfortunately that’s the only thing you can’t be.” Mulhern Caparell continued, “She said, well that’s not fair. And I said what are you going to do about it, and she said I’m going to change the law.”
Alena is attempting to do just that. She told the State House committee, "I know that I am an American first and foremost. Just think of all the great candidates that would not be able to serve our country because of a law that came into existence more than 200 years ago."
In an interview with CBS Boston, she elaborated, “I am an American as much as you are and everyone else. And I don’t really remember China that much. All I know is America.” The aspiring politician has already got her campaign speech down, explaining,
I would be a great leader and bring people together. I would guide our country so it would be an even greater place to live, work and raise a family. And most of all, I love my country. I want to serve my country, and this is my country.
So will we all be sporting “Mulhern for President” bumper stickers on our cars 25 years from now? Only time will tell, but, given Alena’s tenacity at only 10 years of age, I wouldn’t bet against her.