Every once in a while, when I’m down at Legislative Hall, I get to witness something really good happening. That happened today. I saw Madeline Campbell, the Delaware Youth In Government President, give a speech to the entire Delaware House of Representatives. Prior to that, she did the same thing in front of the Delaware Senate. If you know much about public speaking, it can be intimidating to do in front of a class or a group of people. To do it in front of an entire legislative body is something else. To do it at her age is phenomenal! Campbell did an awesome job with her delivery. It is kids like Campbell who represent the future of Delaware!
With Madeleine and her Mom’s permission, I present the speech she gave to the Delaware Senate and the Delaware House of Representatives today:
Hello! My name is Madeline Campbell, and I am a senior at Newark High School. Over the course of the last year, I have had the honor and privilege to serve the State of Delaware as the 49th Youth Governor to the Delaware Youth in Government program.
Some of you might not know this, but every April 16th middle and high school students fill these chambers, as well as the courthouse and create a mock government. There are five separate components to our program. The House of Commons which is our middle school group, the judicial branch which functions as an appellate court, the lobbyist corp who all represent different companies in our state, the press corp which documents our entire conference, and last but not least, our legislative branch which is broken up in to two separate House chambers, and a Senate.
Before our delegates get to Legislative Hall, they have weekly meetings at their schools or their local YMCAs to prepare for our conference. Students work for months to draft legislation to combat an issue that they see in our state. This year, topics ranged from education reforms, teacher support, expansion of opportunities for ELL students and deaf students, dark money groups and their involvement in political campaigns, bioremediation, gun control, abortions, and mental health care. To see students my age that are passionate about topics that affect not only our state, but our nation as a whole is truly inspiring. We look at problems in a fresh light, and bring a perspective to the table that not a lot of adults might think of.
This year, there were two key pieces of legislation that I thought stood out above the rest.
The first, is entitled the Gun Safety Act, and it was written by a delegate at Salesianum High School. The intent of his bill was to “increase gun control measures in the State of Delaware, requiring owners of handguns, rifles, and shotguns to receive a permit to own a firearm. Said permit shall be contingent upon passing a gun safety course, and firearms transfers shall not occur before a permit is obtained. The bill also prohibits magazines above a certain size depending on the type of fire arm.” The legislation put specific requirements on who could legally obtain a license for a gun. Anyone under the age of 18 would not be granted permission to own a long arm and anyone under the age of 21 would not be permitted to own a hand gun. Additionally, any person convicted of a violent felony, or anyone who had previously been committed to a hospital or sanitarium for a mental disorder would be barred from obtaining a permit. The penalties for obtaining a gun or magazine illegally would be either jail time or a heavy fine, depending on the severity of the case.
The second piece of legislation that caught my attention this year was entitled “An Act to Make Delaware a Sanctuary State”, and was also written by a delegate from Salesianum High School. The purpose of this delegate’s bill was to strengthen Delawarean communities by restricting the acquisition of information about immigration status by local and state agencies and to limit the communication of immigration status to federal immigration agencies. This legislation hopes to bar state and local law enforcement agencies from using any department money, facilities, property, equipment or personnel to investigate, interrogate or arrest any persons for immigration reasons. The legislation also does not prevent the state agencies from sharing already public information with federal authorities, if they ask.
These two bills stood out the most to me, because these delegates attempted to solve issues that our own legislature struggles with. As I sat up in the balcony and watched debate happen on these bills, I was worried that students would get emotional and heated, and let their feelings control the debate instead of their minds. But that never happened. When I watched my peers debate on these topics I saw nothing but respect. No, not every person in the chambers agreed, but they argued passionately and disagreed respectfully, and that matters more than whether or not both of these pieces of legislation passed.
The character that I saw in these chambers, from students my own age, is my favorite aspect of youth in government. Yes, we are a program that teaches students about politics and the legislative process, but that is not all we are. We are a program that prides ourselves on upholding the four core values of the YMCA: Honesty, caring, responsibility, and respect. We are a program that teaches students how to care about issues, and then fight for those issues. We are a program that teaches students that they have a voice in our state, and that their voice matters. We are a program that teaches students that politics is about the people, not about the party. We are a program, that is building the future of this state, and for that I could not be more proud.
I would like to thank the following people for investing in the future of our state by sponsoring students in the Youth in Government program: Senator Brian Bushweller, Senator Anthony DelCollo, Senator Bruce Ennis, Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Senator Bryan Townsend, Senator Jack Walsh, Rep John Viola, Rep Paul Baumbach, Rep Deb Hudson, Rep Ruth Briggs-King, and Rep Kim Williams.
For those of you that have not gotten the chance to come see what Youth in Government is all about, I would like to invite you to pop in next Spring, and see what we are all about. I promise you will be blown away by the caliber of greatness that the students of our state possess.
Thank you for all for your time, and for allowing me to give you a little glimpse of what the Delaware Youth in Government program is all about.