Teenagers Jensen Walcott and a bow-tied Jake Reed took their story of wage discrimination before thousands of Democrats at the party’s national convention Thursday — and a nationwide, prime-time television audience.
The Bonner Springs friends spoke for about two minutes. They recalled how they had been fired in June after discovering Walcott was paid 25 cents an hour less than Reed for the same job at the same restaurant.
“As far as we could tell, we had the same knowledge of pizza,” Reed told the delegates.
Walcott said she never learned the reason for the wage difference. “I may have lost my job,” Walcott said, “but I am proud that I spoke up for myself. And I am glad Jake stood with me too.”
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The pair were among several speakers who talked about economic challenges during the evening session of the convention. Walcott said she was glad Hillary Clinton “stood with us” as the story spread several weeks ago.
Clinton tweeted encouragement to Walcott when the story broke, leading to the invitation to speak at the convention.
“Our story isn’t just about fighting for equal pay,” Reed said. “It’s about doing the right thing.”
Reed and Walcott arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday, part of a whirlwind visit to the convention they could have scarcely imagined just weeks ago.
“Last month I was just applying for a job, and now we’re here,” Reed said Wednesday. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. We’re so baffled.”
A campaign speechwriter helped the two teenagers draft their remarks, Walcott said. She and Reed rehearsed the speech on a convention stage Wednesday before the real deal.
“I don’t think anyone should be discriminated against,” Walcott said. “Whether it’s race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or disability, or anything like that.”
Both professed to a bit of nervousness. But they’ve also enjoyed the ride.
“We’re having a blast,” Reed said. Walcott agreed: “It’s an amazing opportunity.”
After the speech, both teenagers said they were “exhilarated.”
“We were so thrilled and amazed to be up there,” Reed said by phone as Walcott talked over him.
“It was surreal,” she said, and Reed agreed.
Her speech didn’t get Walcott any closer to the voting booth, though. She doesn’t turn 18 until after Election Day, so she can’t vote for Clinton or anyone else.
Reed is registered — as a Democrat. He plans to vote in November.