Mock session for youth mirrors real Legislature

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2004

She was just 15 years of age.

She was just 15, but the wisdom of her words reflected far more years.

She was clear, articulate, penetrating and eloquent.

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She made powerful points, but she lost.

She was just 15.

This moment was centered in a Mock Legislative Session (Mock Session).

One hundred youth filled the Chamber of the Alabama House of Representatives.

They came to Montgomery by way of Suttles, Perry County from across Alabama and other states.

This was just one event during the 10-day Summer Leadership Camp sponsored by the Twenty First Century Youth Leadership Movement (21C).

Before this moment arrived, I had asked legislators, lobbyists and others to help our youth by personally participating in the Mock Session.

More than 25 came.

I was personally touched.

I was very thankful and appreciative.

Before this moment arrived, I had met with the youth, explained the 21C Mock Legislative Session and answered questions.

Then the nine leadership teams met separately, each discussing their concerns.

They only had 20 minutes to propose two bills on subjects selected solely by them.

Every team came up with at least two bills and some proposed three.

These were not just titles or subjects but content as well.

They were issues that interested them.

They were issues that interested me. I was amazed at how much they accomplished in that short time frame.

April Caddell, the 15-year-old youth leader, was the sponsor and chief advocate for the first bill.

It sprang from her personal experiences.

She is from a county where a legislator changed from Democrat to Republican shortly after he was elected two years ago.

Even the children were impacted.

This bill would prohibit elected officials from changing political parties after being elected.

If an elected official attempted to change parties, it would be considered a resignation with a new election called.

It is an issue legislators have wrestled with in various venues.

April advanced her arguments so well.

Others opposed the bill but did not express themselves nearly as well.

However, when it came to time to vote, she lost.

It reminded me so much of the Alabama Legislature.

The youth leaders proposed bills involving a range of issues.

Allow me to share the subjects: cap gasoline at $1.59 per gallon; provide free hospital care for the poor; require a master’s degree and an IQ of 110 to serve as mayors of cities; prohibit minors from being tried as adults; stop high school graduates from being drafted into the military service; provide black heritage courses in schools; provide clean and safe school cafeterias; prohibit school uniforms; prohibit private prisons; prohibit speed bumps in housing projects; prohibit racial profiling; provide drug abuse programs in local communities; establish safe communities; improve schools through good teachers, require clean schools and strong discipline; and limit class size to 30 students.

I knew each bill sprung from their personal experiences.

Not only did these youth leaders take just 20 minutes to come up with the bills, no other preparation was provided before debating the bills in the Mock Session.

They had to go to the podium and speak.

Yet they rose to the occasion.

I was so proud of them.

Some youth performed the roles of legislators while other performed the roles of lobbyists.

One presided as Senate President while another handled the duties of Governor.

All were trying to pass, stop or change legislation.

Two young leaders playing lobbyists came and asked me to vote for a bill.

I was not voting, but I agreed to support their bill and when the time came, I pushed the green button for “yes.”

It was a learning experience for them with spontaneous ovations bursting forth when a bill passed or failed.

It was also a rewarding experience for the legislators, lobbyists and others.

Several lobbyists said that they learned more than they shared; that they received more than they gave; that their time, effort and words of wisdom were good investments. It was a win-win for all of us.

At one point during the Mock Session, April revealed her discouragement.

“I don’t know why they voted down my bill,” she said.

At that moment, another bill was being considered.

She expressed serious concerns to me about the bill so I asked, “April, are you going to speak on this bill?”

She responded, “They will just vote against me again.”

Then she breathed deeply, smiled and went forth.

She was again clear, articulate, penetrating and eloquent.

This time they voted with her.

I wanted to tell her this was also like the Alabama Legislature I know so well.

As I was completing Sketches, Dr. Carol P. Zippert called. It seems that the mother of Joshua Finch, a 14-year-old 21C Youth Leader from the Haramabe Chapter in Greene County, had just stopped her as she was entering the Eutaw Post Office. “You brought me back a new son,” Ms. Finch said proudly. “If I can help in any way, I’m willing to volunteer.” Carol was proud, and so was I, because it further illustrates that when we touch young lives, we also touch not-so-young lives.

EPILOGUE -Too often we underestimate our youth.

Too often we underestimate our capacity to share with our youth.

Too often we fail to realize the reward we receive when we share.

I was truly rewarded this week.

There were others who shared so much more.

I hope they were also rewarded more.

Now on to the Daily Diary.

Saturday -I shared in an Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC) Breakfast at the Twenty First Century Leadership (21C) Center in Suttles, Perry County, Alabama.

I then chaired an ANSC Board meeting.

I also talked with numerous ANSC and 21C leaders from around the state.

I returned to Selma and worked on several issues.

I went back to the 21C Center where I did a leadership talk about self-examination and self-determination.

I returned to Selma to make remarks at the 80th Birthday Celebration of Minnie Pompey, a very special woman and the mother of my secretary, Gloria Pompey.

I told her family and friends that Minnie was “my girlfriend.”

I worked into the night.

Sunday -I did Radio Sunday School, Radio Education and Sunday Review.

I attended Sunday School before heading to the 21C Center.

I worked with youth leaders in preparing for the Mock Legislative Session.

I also participated in the Brother-to-Brother session.

I returned to Selma to perform additional work.

Monday -I again worked on the Mock Legislative Session.

I talked with many leaders including Senators E. B. McClain and Quinton Ross.

I worked on Black Belt Community Foundation (Foundation) issues over lunch with Dr. Carol Zippert.

I talked with the Family of Rosa “Mama” Soles, deceased.

Mama Soles was a very special person.

I facilitated a town hall meeting on education and handled other S with a housing developer.

I met and/or talked with others including Senator Zeb Little.

I commenced writing Sketches.

I returned to the 21C Center to handle various matters.

EPILOGUE -Too often we underestimate our youth.

Too often we underestimate our capacity to share with our youth.

Too often we fail to realize the reward we receive when we share.

I was truly rewarded this week.

There were others who shared so much more.

I hope they were also rewarded more.