Candace Adams never really wanted to have children. The way she tells it, she didn't particularly care for them all that much. But like them or not, 17 years ago, Adams gave birth to her only child. "I was convinced Coby was going to be a boy and a Republican," the lifelong liberal said, laughing. "I was sure of it. Thankfully, I was wrong on both counts."
While she still isn't crazy about young children (she prefers cats), she said, thanks to her daughter, she now loves teenagers. Adams said she is very impressed with her daughter's generation. "I wasn't a big fan of 'Generation X,' but these guys get it," she said. "They remind me of my generation during the '60s."
As a student at Cal-State Northridge in 1967, Adams protested against the Vietnam War. A former Marine, Adams' soon-to-be-ex-husband didn't necessarily share her leftist leanings. So when she gave birth 17 years ago, Adams had convinced herself, much to her dismay, that she had given birth to a future member of the young Republicans club.
Adams biggest fears never materialized. Amidst the wave of coordinated chants ("No Blood for Oil!"), impassioned speeches (Tyne Daly and Ramsey Clark), pointedly humorous homemade placards ("Send the Bush Girls to War") and tens of thousands of protesters (from Anchorage to Annandale) in Washington, D.C. Saturday morning was Coby Wells, a senior at Herndon High School and Adams' dyed-in-the-wool Democratic daughter. For the 17-year-old Wells, Saturday's anti-war protest on the National Mall and the subsequent march to the Navy Yard, was not her first. The budding political activist and aspiring politician was there in October marching for peace. "And I will be there as long as they keep organizing these rallies," she said from her Herndon home Monday, adding that she believes war is a foregone conclusion. "Even though I don't think George W. cared to hear what we all had to say, it is important that we said it."
Adams, her mother, believes that their family's extensive travel helped mold her daughter into the person that she is today. From Micronesia to Iceland and Thailand to London, Wells has seen a wide variety of cultures and people during her 17 years. "We always wanted Coby to know that life isn't just Herndon," she said. "There are so many diverse cultures out there in the world. Our travels gave her a view of the world that not every kid gets. It gave her something beyond her own neighborhood. She has always seen the good in people."
Her global views helped shape her, and her mother's, perspective on the events of Sept. 11. "It's been happening around the world for decades and then we finally got bombed," Adams said. "Terrorism hit home for once and we act like we discovered it."
Her equally outspoken daughter echoed her mother's thoughts. "I was ashamed about how America responded to 9/11," Wells said. "It was all about America — 'God Bless America' — well, what about 'God Bless Everyone?'"
<b>DESPITE THE FACT</b> that Wells isn't old enough to vote, the teenager isn't afraid to make her voice heard. Last year, when she decided her school needed a group to help support gay classmates, she said she faced a skeptical administration. Six months later, Herndon High had its first student initiated gay-straight alliance. Her friend and fellow marcher, John Wyatt, said nothing Wells does surprises him. "She's pretty opinionated so when Coby sets her sights on something, she gets it done," he said. "There is never any question about that. She doesn't back down, she doesn't take 'no' for an answer, and she always gets what she wants."
Her determination helped ensure that the gay-straight student alliance at Herndon High became a reality. "We wanted to put together this support group and they wouldn't even let us use the word 'gay' in the title," she said, rolling her eyes. "We settled on 'Generations Accept All Youth' — it's G-A-A-Y."
Like many typical high school campuses, Herndon High is a mixture of teenage activism and suburban apathy. "There's actually a lot of radical ideas floating around. It seems everyone wants to support the legalization of marijuana," she said, laughing. "There are also a lot of people who don't support the idea of a war."
Wells' teacher, Doug Ganey, said anti-war students slightly outnumber the pro-war students in his three political science classes. "Coby is passionate, intelligent and very well spoken," Ganey said. "She is always up for any discussion."
Given its proximity just outside the beltway and its fair share of affluent neighborhoods, Herndon has a number of right-leaning thinkers and pro-war supporters, Wells says. "A lot of my classmates are kids of federal workers and military officers, so we get a lot of viewpoints and I love that. I think that is very healthy," she said. "We have a big ROTC program, too. Obviously, we don't agree, but, at least, there is a lot of informed arguments on both sides. I like that."
<b>NOTHING GETS WELLS' </b>ire rankled like talk of a possible war with Iraq. Her anti-war views led her, and three of her friends, to the Mall on a brutally cold Saturday morning. The Herndon High senior says she hasn't heard of one good reason the United States should go to war with Iraq. "OK, they might have nuclear weapons, but so does North Korea and I don't see us amassing troops on that border ready to attack," Wells said. "Sure, they may be mistreating their citizens but there are countries in Africa who have been involved in brutal civil wars and genocide and we didn't send troops to stop it."
Wells said President Bush, whom she doesn't consider to be her president and to whom she refers to as 'George W.', has not exhausted all of his options in an attempt to avoid war. "It's about oil, that is all it is about," she said. "For George W., war is the only option."
Wells said she fears a lot of young soldiers, many of whom, aren't much older than herself, will be coming home in flag-draped coffins. "I don't think a lot of these young boys realize what they are about to get into," she said, adding that she does not think serving in the military is honorable. "I don't think it is ever honorable to kill innocent men, women and children in the name of war."
Being among thousands of anti-war protesters was a moving experience for Wells. She said she met and spoke with people from all over the country including a group from Alaska. "I was really surprised at the turnout. Despite the cold weather, people really came out."
Her mom, who did not attend Saturday's rally, was very proud of her budding activist and she dismissed those that have claimed participants in anti-war marches were somehow being unfaithful, or even treasonous, to the United States. "When did dissent become unpatriotic?" asked Adams.
"Yeah, the last time I checked this is a democracy, not a dictatorship," answered Wells.
<b>IN FEBRUARY</b>, Wells will take her opinions to Capitol Hill. The high school senior will joins the staff of one of the nation's most liberal senators, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). "They don't know about the ring," she said, pointing to the silver jewelry adorning her lip. "I interviewed over the phone and I know I will have to do something about that." While in Washington, Wells will be paying close attention because she says she hopes to someday follow in Boxer's political footsteps and become a senator. In May, her eight-hour a week internship on the Hill will end and she will graduate from Herndon High. This summer, Wells and her mom will be moving to Southern California where she plans on attending community college, if she is not hired to work in one of Boxer's California field offices. Eventually, Wells said she will enroll in a four-year university.
"When she knows what she wants, she goes out and gets it," said her friend, Ruth Maxwell. "Coby was competing against college students for that spot in the senator's office and she did what she had to do. That's why I know she will be a senator someday."