Delaware Youth In Government President Madeline Campbell’s Speech To The Delaware General Assembly

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.

 

 

3000

Sometimes a landmark passes you by and you never take notice.  As I looked at my blog earlier today, I saw I had written 2,999 posts.  That is a heck of a lot of articles for a blog that isn’t even two and a half years old.  So I thought I would do something special for the 3,000 mark.  I want to talk about fear.

There is no crippling force greater than fear.  It can turn the most well-intentioned person into a bowl of jello in a heartbeat.  We have all been there.  Some live in this state constantly.  What is my greatest fear?  Probably that my son will have a hard life.  It is one of the reasons I fight.  With every bone in my body.  I see teacher fear constantly.  Those who are afraid to speak because they can’t lose their job.  Fear can paralyze you when you least expect it.  It gnaws at you and turns conviction into uncertainty.  Truth into doubt.  But there are those who fight the fear and do something with it.

Do you want to know who doesn’t seem to have any fear?  Rita Landgraf.  The News Journal announced today she will take a job at the University of Delaware.  The soon-to-be former Delaware Secretary of Health will have big things to do at the University of Delaware.

She will join UD’s College of Health Sciences as a professor of practice and distinguished health and social services administrator in residence. She also will direct the UD Partnership for Healthy Communities, a cross-state and college initiative that looks to address healthcare challenges in the community.

Landgraf has been fighting for those who aren’t able to fight for themselves for a long time now and I’m glad to see she will continue that tradition.

Sometimes fear means rising up out of your comfort chair and doing the right thing.  Shelley Suckyj spoke out at a Christina Board of Education meeting on September 20th.  This one action drew major attention to the mold issues plaguing Christina schools right now.

Then there is Kathleen DeNight.  Last week, she received Autism Delaware’s Volunteer Of The Year.  As a parent of a child with Autism, I have seen DeNight at meetings.  She is not one to mince words and she will fight for her child.

Next is my wife.  On Saturday, she participated in a 5k walk.  In the pouring rain, she completed the whole thing and came in 11th place.  She has worked very hard in the past year to get to this point and I am very proud of her.

We can’t forget Jerry Fickes and Chris Leach, the two Wilmington firefighters who sacrificed their own lives to save others last month.

Another is one of my sources who I can’t name because then they wouldn’t be a source.  But sometimes sticking your own neck out in order to do good for others can be tough.  But this source does it consistently, and has been doing this for years.

There is this guy at work.  He says some of the most outlandish stuff I’ve ever heard in my life.  But he always does it with a smile.  He has absolutely no fear at all in this world and will say whatever is on his mind.

The Chicago Cubs may have a lot of fear going to the World Series, their first in 71 years.  But fear doesn’t get a team that far.  It is hard work and dedication.  I’ll be rooting for the Cubs.

Take Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook.  The two are running for the President and Vice-President of the Delaware State Education Association next year.  But they are starting their grass-roots campaign now and have committed to holding 15 meetings throughout the state in the coming months to meet with teachers and hear their concerns.  They have no fear whatsoever in speaking their mind for what they believe in.

Some take their fear from younger days and turn it into something good.  Such is the case with the Dover High School Peer Group Connections members.  These seniors help new freshmen transition to the high school.

I want to give a shout-out to some other bloggers out there in this country.  Especially two of them who continue to astonish me with the level of investigative prowess they exhibit.  They are heroes in my mind, and what these two blog about is very frightening stuff.

One of my favorite artists, a bloke by the name of Steve Dillon, passed away recently.  He was one of the co-creators, along with Garth Ennis, of Preacher.  Before that, they had a fantastic run on a comic called Hellblazer.  Dillon lived life by his own terms, and he wasn’t afraid to stand by what he believed.

Or what about Scott Goward.  A Dover resident running for Governor on a 3rd party ticket.  I’m sure he knows he will most likely lose, but he runs anyway, announcing his candidacy long before candidates from the “major” parties did so.

Fear conquering is all around us.  We see it every time a baby takes its first steps.  When a dying person is finally ready to let go.  When a student walks into a school for the first time.  When a couple finds out they are expecting.  People who struggle with addiction who take those tentative steps to ask for help.  When someone goes into surgery not knowing what the outcome might be.  When a parent attends a board meeting to give public comment about issues with their child.  When an African-American tells the world no more.  Or it could be a teenager who ignores a bully and walks right past them with their head held high.  Or another teenager who tells his mother, “I did it”, knowing that confession is better than the guilt.  Those who wake up in immense pain every single day but find the courage to get out of bed and face the day.  The opposite of fear is courage.  In big ways or small ways, courage is overcoming fear.

For those who have been along this journey from the very beginning, thank you for the road to 3,000.  For those who came along in-between, thank you for sticking around.  For those who just read occasional articles, that’s cool too.

Things are changing fast in education right now.  It will take great courage to speak your truth.  But it has to happen.

Kevin, 10/24/16