Gov. Riley commends young political guru during speech

Published 9:42 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2006

By By Adam Prestridge
He doesn't miss a town meeting involving politics, whether it is a congressman, senator or governor speaking.
His political views and opinions are documented for everyone in Atmore to read in each Sunday edition of the "Atmore Advance".
And following the 60th annual Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce banquet held last Thursday at the Atmore Area YMCA and Community Center his political genius has been made evident to Alabama's top political figure, Gov. Bob Riley.
"The Atmore Advance's" 15-year-old political columnist, Tray Smith, was recognized during the banquet after he had a brief discussion with Riley following dinner prior to his address to the more than 300 on hand.
"The question I initially asked Gov. Riley was concerning Newt Gingrich's 1994 contract with America, which spurred a national campaign to elect Republican candidates to the United States Congress," Smith said. "The result was the first Republican majority in the House in 40 years, and the first Republican majority in the Senate in eight years. I was curious to know the Governor's thoughts on why we do not have a similar contract with Alabama that would help us elect Republican majorities to our legislature and maintain control of the governorship."
Smith will give his insight on his conversation with Gov. Riley and the speech he gave during the Chamber banquet Sunday in his column "The Bottom Line". Smith did say that Riley made a lasting impression on him.
"Gov. Riley was very generous towards me, and that meant a lot," he said. "He was a great encouragement for me to continue my political interest. I was very honored to be able to meet him, and I am thankful for the opportunities he has offered me. I was also very impressed with his speech and the way he presented himself."
Smith returned to the Advance's staff table following his chat with Gov. Riley and announced that he was offered an opportunity to be a summer intern at the state capitol in Montgomery.
Smith made an impression on Riley as well.
"I want to introduce to you a young man that will one day and I don't know when, but it probably want be long will be the next president of the United States, Tray Smith," Riley said midway through his opening statement. "When I was in the ninth grade I had two things on my mind, blonde headed girls and hubcaps for my car. Tray gave me one of the most insightful orientation into politics and local government that I have ever seen given. I told him that I wanted him to come work for us this summer. "
Riley asked Smith to stand up and he received a round of applause from the crowd on hand.
I was really surprised about how polite the governor was towards me, and about the opportunities that he offered me this summer," Smith said. "His generosity and kindness meant a lot. I am now working with his aides on arranging an internship after school is out in May."
Smith said Riley told him that he not only could work as an intern, but also hang out with him in his officer and travel with him in his plane and on his trips.
"I will get a first-hand look at the governorship," Smith added.
Chamber director Emilie Mims thought it was nice for Riley to applaud Smith for his interests in politics and thought it was a good gesture of him to encourage the students in the area to study politics.
"I thought it was very interesting," she said. "I grew up with Tray's father, Ralph Smith, but I don't know much about Tray. I do know that he is an very intelligent young man way beyond his years and obviously very politically oriented. I know he likes the opportunity to speak with politicians and he does it very well, so I was not surprised that Gov. Riley pointed him out."
As for Smith becoming president one day, "He could be, I'm not making any predictions, but he could be."
We'll all just have to wait and see.

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