Anna was walking down Locust when her friend Jana flagged her down.
Jana, then the president of Penn Democrats, knew Anna had volunteered with Penn Dems before. She asked if Anna was free that Saturday to assist with a Clinton event—which is how, on that Saturday in November, Anna found herself driving a white van packed with Hillary Clinton’s press team down the highway. The van was part of the Democratic candidate’s motorcade, which traveled from the Philadelphia airport to a political event in the city. Police cars bookended the motorcade and more police officers on motorcycles flanked the procession.
“You’re going super fast, like 70, 80 down regular streets,” Anna recalled. “And you can’t leave a gap between the other cars.”
Streets were closed off so the motorcade could proceed without interruption, and the vans zoomed through stop signs and red lights. While Anna was driving, one of the journalists from NPR started recording a podcast in the van.
“I heard that her personal team was super stressed, since it was right before the election, so it was kind of silent in their car,” Anna said, “but the journalists were just sarcastic and funny and making jokes.”
After they drove down, Anna and the other volunteers had an opportunity to join the hallowed circle of Penn students who have profile pictures with major Democratic party figures (see: Joe Biden).
“They got us in for a photo with her [HRC] later,” she said. She doesn’t remember what Clinton smelled like, but “her hand was very warm, though. It was really soft. She must lotion a lot.”
Even though most people would be terrified to barrel down the highway in a van filled with journalists in a Presidential candidate's motorcade, Anna has a higher tolerance for uncomfortable situations than most people (although she does admit that the drive was scary). The motorcade drive actually combines two items that Anna has an affinity for: social causes and talking to strangers. While most of us cast our eyes to our phones during uncomfortable social situations, Anna actually likes talking to people she doesn't know. Her embrace of the potentially awkward comes in handy during PennQuest, where, as a group leader, she has to convince a group of scared freshmen to open up and befriend each other in the Appalachian wilderness. Anna has four days to take nervous freshmen from strangers to life–long friends—no small task, but a welcome challenge for the perpetually warm and inclusive Anna. Anna's deft ability to handle interactions with strangers also came in handy this semester, when she volunteered for the Democratic campaign by registering voters in Clark Park and door–knocking in the highrises.
To be sure, Anna always had an affinity for people. She gravitated towards a cappella group Off The Beat, immediately identifying the group as one that would quickly become a close Penn family for both her and its other members. Anna served as Off The Beat's president last year.
As a Health and Studies major, Anna also takes a look at the social issues that impact people across the globe.
“I’m really passionate about women’s reproductive rights, reproductive health, public health and health policy,” she explained. She's furthered that interest through her work at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, where she does research on the media’s coverage of the Zika virus. She plans to carry these values with her after she graduates in May, when she “100 percent wants to be doing something good for the world."
In her own words:
Street: if your life were a musical, who would you want to write the score?
Anna Kanter: That’s tough. I mean, you can’t beat Steven Spielberg—with some Lin-Manuel Miranda flair thrown in there for creativity. Maybe a duo? I feel like they’d be a dream team.
Street: Of Lin and Steven.
AK: Leven...Stin...bad couple names.
Street: What the weirdest thing you’ve licked during Pennquest?
Anna: Probably the weirdest thing I’ve licked is someone’s armpit, but I don’t think that’s that weird. I’ve seen some weird things get licked, though, for sure.
Street: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen get licked?
AK: The weirdest thing I’ve seen get licked...I don’t know if they’ll be university-approved. (Ed. note: it was weird but probably university-approved). The weirdest thing I’ve seen done on PennQuest—my freshman year, a kid in my group pooped out of a tree with all of us watching. Twice. It was amazing. It’s captioned on video somewhere.
Street: I’ve heard of groups doing synchronized group poops in a line.
We did circle poops. All the girls in my group freshman year. Tandem poops are great.
Street: if there are two types of people at Penn, what are they?
AK: So, I knew I was going to be asked this and I keep coming back to this even though it’s cliché: those who did PennQuest and those who wish they did PennQuest.
Street: Is there anything about you that’s stayed the same since Kindergarten?
AK: I love to read, I used to read to kids in my class. I love wearing dresses. Yeah, and I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Street: Do you have a favorite meme?
AK: Honestly, I’m not super into the meme culture. I appreciate them when people send them to me but I wouldn’t say I really understand it. I wouldn’t say I’m ‘in’ the meme culture. I probably sound 90 years old. But I do like the Kermit meme. The me-to-me ones.
Street: If there were a me-to-me Kermit meme about your life what would it be?
AK: Let’s see...I’d probably say, me: ‘apply to jobs’...me to me: ‘continue watching Parks and Rec’.
Street: Is there anything that we forgot to ask you?
AK: What’s your spirit vegetable? That’s my favorite question but people always shoot it down when I ask it.
Street: So what’s your spirit vegetable?
AK: I would say it would have to be a sweet potato. Kind of earthy, into bright colors—even though I’m wearing all black. I decided that’s something I want to do though, is wear more bright colors, because everything’s been a little dreary.