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Although he entered to the lighthearted tune of the Dave Matthews Band's "Ants Marching," Arizona Sen. John McCain took on a more serious tone on Friday when he addressed almost 500 Gen-Xers. The former Republican presidential candidate spoke on a variety of topics -- including his pet issue, campaign finance reform -- at the Penn Tower Hotel Friday morning, kicking off the We the People 2000 convention. The national convention featured a weekend of events designed to work against the stereotype of young voter apathy by teaching adults aged 18 to 35 how to get politically involved -- an issue McCain confronted immediately during his speech. "I care because you are the future of America," McCain said to the approximately 500 delegates gathered in Philadelphia for the convention. The senator, who has become one of the most popular politicians in the country since his unexpectedly strong challenge to Texas Gov. George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, noted that only a small percentage of 18- to 35-year-olds voted in the 1996 presidential election. He expressed his disappointment in the inability of American government to captivate young people. "That shames me as a person who believes that public service is the noblest of all professions," he said. McCain spent about 20 minutes telling those assembled about his motivations for running for the Republican nomination for president, his experiences on the campaign trail and his own political beliefs. "We started a campaign based on reform," he explained. "The gateway to [reform], my friends, is campaign finance reform." Then McCain opened the floor for the remaining 45 minutes to questions from the audience. McCain was asked to tackle questions about everything from legalizing marijuana to health care reform to immigration policy. Delegates also inquired about the senator's future political plans, including whether he would buck the GOP. "The Republican Party is my home," McCain said when asked whether he would run for president on the independent ticket. "We fought an honest fight and I'm proud of it." Finally, McCain addressed his possible endorsement of Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. McCain said he would wait until a scheduled May 9 meeting with the governor to make a final decision, although he indicated he would most likely come out with strong support for Bush. The We the People 2000 convention, sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Responsibility and Social Trust, attracted about 500 people in the 18-to-35 age range for three days of speeches, community service events and political workshops. On Friday, after McCain spoke, delegates attended theme sessions on American government. The afternoon seminars were followed by an evening speech by Jason Nastke, the 20-year-old mayor of Valatie, N.Y. Nastke was introduced to delegates by University President Judith Rodin. Saturday was devoted to more workshops, but also featured the presentation of the Generational Action Plan -- a document that has been the work-in-progress of FIRST conventions for three years -- designed to give young people ideas for how to become more politically active in their communities. Capping off the weekend, the delegates -- who represented 40 of the 50 states -- attended a series of strategy workshops.

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