Thursday, August 3, 2017

Celebrating 100 Change-Makers

     This past year, a lot of things have changed in politics. Rather than dwell on things I can’t change or things I disagree with, I want to focus on one area that I think has potential. Earlier this year there were huge protests in America made of WOMEN. Millions turned out to march in Washington, D.C. and other major cities across the country. They were organized, motivated, and engaged. Regardless of whether you believe in what they were marching for, wasn’t it impressive? It was democracy in action, and it was women getting engaged in politics – two of my favorite things to witness.

     For less than 100 years, our nation has allowed women to vote. During this time, women have gone to the polls to participate and make decisions about policies that affect our lives, our schools, our families, our communities, and our country. The Center for American Women and Politics tells us that in all presidential elections since 1980, the rates of voter turnout for women have exceeded that of men – by four to seven million votes each election! Yet, as we all know, women around the world are still largely absent from local, state, and national decision-making bodies. Worldwide, the UN reports that women make up just under 23 percent of all legislators and there are 10 women worldwide serving as Head of State and nine who serve as Head of Government.

     How can this change? Well, how does anything in politics change? It takes people who are willing to fight for what they believe in. It takes hope. It takes determination. It takes brave individuals who are willing to fail, in order to succeed.

      At ALA Girls Nation, we might not actually be senators or presidential and vice presidential least not yet. We are a group of women who are hopeful for our future. A group who sees 100 girls in front of us who are strong leaders. We see young ladies who are determined to make a difference in the world. Our staff has done our best to give them leadership training, support their efforts to participate in politics, aid them as they advocated for what they believe in, and remind them that we are in this together. We may have future politicians in our presence this week – perhaps even a future President of the United States – we don’t know, yet. But, we are sure that we have 100 change-makers who are going to have an impact in their communities.

     I wish each of you ALA Girls Nation senators the best as you journey home and change the world. It was an honor serving as your Senate parliamentarian.

Thanks for a great week!

Katie Hendricks
Indiana / Missouri
Government Staff

Friday, July 28, 2017

Gaining New Appreciation for Public Service After White House Visit

Our fifth day in Washington, D.C. was an experience the group of us will share for life.

The morning began bright and early. As the ladies of Chevy Chase raised the flag, anticipation grew for the two party rallies. In passionate shows of blue and yellow, the Nationalist and Federalist parties rallied around their candidates for ALA Girls Nation president and vice president. Nationalist "Wonder Women" Melody Wang and Danica Moon and Federalist sports stars Bella Randle and Robyn Anzulis delivered excellent speeches that displayed their ideas, their hearts, and their desire to make a positive difference in the lives of their constituents. Each continued to address our most pressing questions and concerns, including identifying their spirit animals during whistle stops. The democratic process culminated as one hundred of us used all that we had seen of the candidates over the past two days to vote for our next president. (Yours truly held the ballot box with pride, congratulating all on their show of political efficacy.)

At 11:45 a.m., the "not so Secret Service" entered the Senate chamber to announce that the Nationalist duo, Melody and Danica, had won the election. Cheers issued from both sides of the aisle in a moment of pride for all in the room: Pride in ourselves, and pride in our sisters that poured themselves into the last two days. This announcement was the perfect catalyst to the event that, for many of us, will define our week here in D.C. Mirror space was the hottest commodity as we ran back and forth, in and out of rooms, to prepare for our visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A storm of straighteners, eyeliner, and lipstick raged across the hallways as each of us started to realize the momentous nature of the coming hours.

After going through the never-ending security line, we prepared to meet the President of the United States. But I don't think any of us could prepare for the surrealism that came over the Rose Garden when President Trump emerged from the White House. The group of us could not get any closer to each other when he walked up into the risers for a group picture that will grace at least 100 Instagram feeds for weeks to come. The ensuing period of interaction and speech-listening will not be remembered for the heat of the day, but for the awe that united us all in the presence of the leader of the free – which has empowered many of us to picture ourselves addressing future years of Nation senators.

The day ended with a viewing of Twilight Tattoo at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. In a captivating display, members of the The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) demonstrated the changing nature of the Army's involvement over the years. Though uniforms and style of fighting have evolved, the commitment to the protection and preservation of the free nation we call home has not.

In truth, the life-changing nature of this day would not be possible without the dedication and sacrifice of the thousands that have passed, and will pass, through Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Myself and my sister senators extend a humble thank you to all those that give their time, their passion, and their all so that we have the chance to meet the Commander-in-Chief.

Day five of ALA Girls Nation is the beginning of a new appreciation for the office of the President of the United States. While the office isn't all sunshine, it is one that we can all respect and rally behind in the hope that we will be the generation to be the change the world wishes to see.

Aaryan Morrison, Indiana
Alix Hess, Michigan

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Holocaust Museum Stirs Senator to Act

     The Holocaust museum was a powerful, heavy-hitting experience. The museum forces you to empathize with the survivors and victims, and puts you in their place. This creates an environment that is somber; nonetheless, the lessons that the experience teaches you and things you learn about yourself from the museum are poignant and important. Personally, after my time at the Holocaust Museum, I was even more passionate about the rights of the individual and my belief in fair and impartial application of the law.

     These beliefs were perfectly tied into the resolution I presented before the Senate later in the day. My co-senator and I delegated the task of presentation and debate – I handled the debating and the rebuttal, whereas she was the speaker and presenter. It worked extremely well for us. She was able to present a compelling introductory speech as to why our resolution (which was expressing the will of the Senate that the rights of privacy and due process are to be upheld and we should discourage acts that infringe upon these rights) should be passed. As senators who disagreed with our resolution questioned and argued, I was able to rebut their points through logic and evidence. Our resolution ended up passing 78-20-2, the highest amount of affirmative votes on a resolution bill thus far! Other girls presented bills about holidays and vaccinations, which also passed. We finished up the day with reflections; this was a meaningful and beautiful time of reflection and bonding among the citizens of my community.

Sophie Boulter
Chevy Chase

Recap of Day 4 of ALA Girls Nation from Rockville Senator

     Straight after flag raising we, the ALA Girls Nation senators, broke up into our political parties to vote on presidential nominees and prepare for our party rallies. The nominees were well-versed on all the issues, and the Nationalist party had a tough choice deciding between the candidates. In the end we selected Senators Melody Wang and Danica Moon to represent our party in the election, and we are highly confident in their political abilities. After our incredibly intriguing round of voting we split up to make posters and work on cheers. As Nationalists we believe that comedy is by far the best medicine, and our posters were not lacking in that department. After our party caucuses we headed out to lunch, and then loaded on the bus for our trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Jade Sewell

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

ALA Girls Nation Government by the Numbers

All stats are calculated for the 71st session of ALA Girls Nation

Number of states represented at ALA Girls Nation this year: 50

Number of senators at ALA Girls Nation: 100

Number of senators named Isabella (or a variation thereof): 4       
Number of bills docketed: 41

Number of resolutions docketed: 7

Number of joint resolutions docketed: 1

First legislation submitted: 7 June (Thanks SD!)

Last legislation submitted: 19 July

Total days government staff (well, just me!) spent revising legislation: 42 days! 

Emails I exchanged during this process: 456, or 10.86 emails a day

Committees to discuss all legislation: 6 (all committee work done Sunday night)

Pages of Legislation printed: 6,370 – so far

Number of ALA Girls Nation Government Staff members who ROCK and are excited for a great week: 4

Raising our gavels to a great week! 
Katie Hendricks 
Indiana / Missouri 
Government Staff

Monday, July 24, 2017

Iowa Senator Turns Detours Into Learning Experiences

     Only one day into ALA Girls Nation and I know that my life has already been changed. I am Olivia Cowart from Iowa, and I have never had the opportunity to come out this far east to our Nation’s Capital – let alone be surrounded by so many inspiring girls.

     It was truly an emotional experience watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I thought of all the people buried in Arlington National Cemetery – people I have never met nor heard of – but how we were connected by one overarching passion for freedom and unity.

     Through my ALA Girls State and, so far, ALA Girls Nation experience, there have been detours that seem to arise out of nowhere. From what I have learned, government is not an easy topic. People are passionate about what they believe in and also have the intelligence to communicate their ideas effectively, which is what makes this experience so difficult. But, that is also the heart of what makes this experience so life changing. To be surrounded by girls who possess grace, passion, and critical thinking skills for real life topics is something I don’t get to experience much back home. So, I value being able to have this experience, but what I value even more is to be able to be seen as a girl worthy of being here. It is truly incredible to be able to participate, be heard, questioned, and understood. That’s where I feel I change most as a person – by being able to contribute to this great experience.

Olivia Cowart
Spring Valley

Appreciating a Life-Changing Week by Paying It Forward

     It seems nearly unbelievable that yet another year of ALA Girls Nation senators have descended upon Washington, D.C. I was privileged enough to be one of the Florida senators in 2014 and am so grateful for the chance to serve on the staff again in the capacity of dean of junior counselors. In a way, I consider it “paying it forward”; my life was completely changed when I got the chance to attend this program, so I make it my mission to perform to the best of my ability so that these senators may have as life changing a week as I did. At the core of this program is a commitment to do better every single year and that is evident in the alumna of ALA Girls Nation.

     At this turning point in history, one that is wrought with political discourse and often times lacking faith for the future, ALA Girls Nation has me feeling confident. This group of young women doesn’t understand how special they are and the incredible difference they’re going to make in the world. If being a junior counselor has taught me anything, it is that each person has the capacity to make a difference in some way and that it is our job to help the senators realize they have this awesome potential. There is nothing more gratifying as a staff member than watching these young women attain tangible growth and come out on the other end of this week as a different person. What better way to measure the strength and legacy of a program like ALA Girls Nation than to see growth that goes beyond their week here, and witness change that causes them to go home a stronger person with more passion for her country and more motivation to make a difference? ALA Girls Nation is good in the sense that it’s a week full of riveting debates, heated elections, and inspiring tours. ALA Girls Nation is great in the sense that it becomes a legacy of more patriotic citizens, distinguished leaders, and lifelong friendships. 

     From the outside looking in, it can be nearly impossible to understand what this program truly means; once you’ve gone through it, it is even more impossible to imagine how your life would have been without it. ALA Girls Nation is so much more than a week, it is the beginning of a journey that takes America’s best and brightest women each year to previously unimagined heights. I am so excited for the 2017 senators to get to experience the week that inspired my passion for leadership and service, made me realize how important it is to serve those who’ve served our country, and gave me some truly invaluable friendships.

     My biggest piece of advice would be to let this week have the effect it has had on so many alumna by pouring yourself into it. That means being unafraid to grow, even if there are challenges along the way. It is those of us who aren’t afraid to push ourselves outside our comfort zone that will reap the benefits. Most importantly, remember the lessons you learn this week and the perspective you gain will be instrumental in shaping you as a strong female leader.  Some people might not be optimistic about the United State’s future or question how we’ve become so divided as a nation. These are people who haven’t been lucky enough to meet an ALA Girls Nation senator – a young woman who will, without a doubt, use what she learned to be a force of change in the world. 

Morgaan Jessell
Dean of Junior Counselors, Spring Valley