Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bethesda Blog

This has been a simply wonderful week, and Bethesda decided to wrap it up by collectively going over our favorite parts. Below are what the girls said were their favorite parts of the week.

“Getting repeatedly sung to by 97 people.” –Mahnoor Manmood

“The Wounded Warriors picnic was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.” –Mahnoor Manmood

“I appreciated having to deal with the factions that developed in the party over one bill, having to figure out how to overcome it and how the party ended up becoming stronger for it. We grew so much.” –Aviva Shwader

“My favorite part was debating. The ability of some of the Senators to just think of something on their feet, and it’s well thought out and intense- that process was so neat to see.” Brooke Hagopian

“I enjoyed having free reign on Capitol Hill. Even though I already knew my Senators and Representatives, it was so great to get to spend time with them in their element. It was really eye-opening, and I got internship offers.” --Jacqueline Juffer
“Sitting in the gallery of the House, and watching them debate exactly the same we had been debating. It was neat to see that we were doing exactly what they were. I could totally see the girls saying the same things as the Senators just as well or even better.” --Becca Taylor

“I loved Nessie’s story. She persevered throughout the Holocaust despite the hardships. She turned her disappointments into a form of motivation and continued to live life to the fullest. That story will motivate me throughout my life. I can’t wait to take this story back home and spread its message.” –Laura Peng

“I loved experiencing how incredibly open and transparent our government is. It was amazing to be able to freely walk the halls of the capitol and the congressman’s buildings and go into talk to whoever we wished. Although I did not get the chance to talk with either of my senators, it was a great demonstration of how fantastic our government system is.” –Tracy Nelson

“It was great to actually get to see congress at work. After our mock congress sessions and having a better understanding of how congress works, it was amazing to be able to see the House of Representatives in session. Seeing it all in person is so much different than from a television screen. Of course, it was not nearly as exciting as finding out that there were so many girls here that shared my obsession for fancy G2 pens!” – Lucy Liu

“It was nice to see warrior house that I will never forget because they inspire me so much. I wish I were there at least 2 more hours because they like our story and how we help them. Also I have good time to meet the Boy Nation because they have different ideas. Last thing I want to say that many girls are very inspire my life and they push me to be better person. I love all the girls so much.”- Cille Patten

“Girls Nation has been one of the most influential experiences of my life. Making connections with my senators and representatives at Capitol Hill was incredible. However, what I enjoyed most was meeting their interns and staff. The support that they give to our political system is absolutely crucial. Seeing them quietly go about their job to better our world made me see that there is more to politics than partisan bickering and indecision. I have learned so many lessons from Girls Nation, and I’m sure I’ll realize that I learned even more as soon as I get home!”-- Molly Monk

Friday, July 29, 2011

Forever Remembered

Walking up to a group of girls in the airport, I’m anxious to see who I will meet. Instantly I hear words of welcome, friendly questions, and comparisons of Girls States. People are shouting, “You’re from Alaska?” or “You have summer homework?” This was going to be the beginning of a whirlwind of events throughout an amazing week.
From meeting the President (and hugging him), to walking around Capitol Hill with senators, everything this week will be forever remembered. Every girl in Girls Nation this year has made an impact on my life and I’m sure on the lives of others. Maybe we made fun of each others’ accents, or inquired on how they lived their life back in their home states, we all learned at least one new thing this week.
I would like to thank every staff member and counselor for providing this opportunity and helping along on this amazing journey. I would also love to thank every girl at Girls Nation for being their own lovely, beautiful, intelligent, crazy, funny, and all around amazing self. You all have changed my life forever. I love you girls!

The shimmering sun was burning the morning clouds from the sky as the flag floated away, carried by Georgetown community. My heart was bursting with pride as we all stepped in sync and we reached the flag pole. The day started out accordingly, with a patriotic ambiance around us. As we finished breakfast and loaded our bus to leave for the White House, I was overcome with a feeling of nationalism and pride. A few weeks ago, who would’ve known that I was going to step on ground that was built by the founding fathers of the greatest nation in the world? Who knew that I would be able to walk the rooms that Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, James Madison, and many others resided in? Who knew that I would feel a part of history myself and be able to honor those who fought for me and my rights in such a way?

Today’s visit to the White House made me view the world with a different set of eyes. I managed to reach high and find the hidden stars that lay in my soul. The history of the White House and those who resided in it helped me see the importance of the rights and freedoms I have today. It helped me see that because I am a woman, I can make a difference in the world, and because I am a part of Girls Nation, I already am fulfilling that goal. All the support and kindness offered to me here along with the visits to some of the most beautiful and important monuments in our country, have taught me to be proud of who I am as an individual working amongst others who aspire towards the same goals. Today, I opened my eyes to the endless opportunities that lay before me in the future. I learned that my time is limited, and I do not need to be living someone else’s life to be content or to make others happy. I learned that my inner voice can be stronger than all others opposing me, and that listening to my heart and intuition is best because they already seem to know where I want to go and be at. Because of today and of all the wonderful other individuals that I have the pleasure to be with at Girls Nation, I realized that Gandhi was right when he said strength comes not from physical capacity, but from an indomitable will.

Stefania Cotei

Why I Serve

I was raised with the utmost respect for the American military. For many generations members of my family have answered our nation’s call, have donned the uniform, and have served this nation proudly. As much as I respected their decisions, I knew that was never the path for me. Although it sounds cliché, my path was decided my junior year of high school a few months after I turned 17. That was the year I was selected to go to Hoosier Girls State as a delegate. While there, my feelings of patriotism and pride grew, and I learned more about how our state and local governments operate. At Girls State, I had the honor of being selected to represent Indiana at Girls Nation. Even before I went to Girls Nation, I knew my life would change forever.
The next year I was invited to speak to the Hoosier Girls State delegates and tell them about my experiences, both at HGS and at GN. I found that the task was impossible – I could never put into words just what I had gone through and the impact those programs would have on me. That same summer, just following my high school graduation, I served on the HGS staff as a junior counselor. I felt that I had to give something back to the American Legion Auxiliary because of all that they had done for me. Yet one week’s volunteerism still seemed inadequate. The next year I returned, then the year after that, and again the following year. This summer marked my tenth year on staff. Ten years of giving up a nine-day period of my summer to volunteer as a staff member. Almost three entire months of my life I have spent at the ISU campus where our Girls State is held, yet the experience is entirely worth it (and I know my volunteerism pales in comparison to some of our staff members!). Only days before Girls Nation began this year, I was invited to serve on staff in place of a dear friend who is unable to attend this year. Without hesitation, I agreed to come and serve. Yet it seems as if the more I return to serve, the more indebted I feel to this organization.
The national mission of the American Legion Auxiliary focuses on service, not self. The Auxiliary gives each of us a chance to serve our veterans, our military, their families, and our communities. By donating our time to the Auxiliary and its programs, we are serving those who serve. I encourage all of this year’s Senators to Girls Nation to find their own way to give back to the American Legion Auxiliary. When this week ends and you return to your respective states, take what you have been given and share it. For some it might mean joining your local unit of the Auxiliary. For several, it might mean talking to the juniors in your high school and encouraging them to attend Girls State. Others of you might heed the call as I did and serve the ALA by means of volunteering at your own Girls States. Whatever your niche is, I encourage you to find it. It would be a shame if you kept all that you have experienced to yourself and not allowed it to enrich your life, your family, and your community. I have learned that although I might not ever wear a uniform, what I do makes a difference, and through my service I have the opportunity to influence the lives of hundreds of girls each year.

Katie Cochran

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life in the Government Office

Since all four government staff members are teachers / professors / or retired from teaching, it only seemed appropriate that I should dedicate a blog to some of the lessons I have learned this week.

1) If a bus trip is supposed to last 20 minutes, factor in at least 30 minutes.
2) Schedule changes happen at Girls Nation, and frequently.
3) I learned how to sign “good morning, good afternoon, and good night” in sign language – and how to sign “my bad” for when I make mistakes.
4) Staff members never grow too old to collect and swap pins with the senators.
5) After 10 years of cheering for the Federalist party, it is tough to be the Assistant Nationalist Party Leader…I’ve joked that I have been a “Fat Ned” this week.
6) Even after eight straight days of it, a brownie with vanilla ice cream at lunch is still delicious. Plus, there are over 700 possible ice cream combinations available at lunch.
7) Nats don’t die, they multiply. Whereas the Feds are fabulous, fun, and funky.
8) I smile too much to be a part of the Not-So-Secret Service.
9) The novelty of meeting the President of the United States never grows old!
10) Our PR staff is amazing and they can Photoshop just about anything that we ask of them.
11) Mia, Catherine Gayle, Addison, Laura Kate, Talley, Francesca, Cori, and Jen are the JCs this week. The rest of the world might think they are Junior Counselors, but I know that they are Junior Cherubs. Those girls have handled everything that we have thrown at them this week…motion sickness…home sickness…the endless counting of votes…singing songs on busses…and they do it all with a smile on their face. I learned that I am going to miss this group of angels.
12) We can be confident in the future of our country. Patriotism and pride are alive and strong at Girls Nation. This group of girls is ready to run things – we just need to get out of their way. This point was emphasized tonight when Senator Christina Ostmeyer of Kansas mentioned on the Senate floor, “We’re not just the future, we’re the now.”

Katie Cochran
Government Staff
Indiana / Missouri

Foggy Bottom Blog

Tuesday, the ladies of Girls Nation 2011 had the great privilege to meet the President of the United States of America. The most powerful man in the world took time out of his busy schedule and stressful debt talks to meet and to encourage us. If that isn’t considerate, I’m not sure what is. Regardless of political ideology, standing ten feet away from him, I experienced his awesome charisma. Barack Obama has the grandest, most confident and inspiring presence of anyone I think I will ever meet. I feel so blessed to have had the honor to sing to him in the Yellow Room.

The day was filled with an inspirational talk from a Holocaust survivor (an incredible and awesome woman, Nessie Godin, who planted compassion for the world in all of our hearts), a night tour of the memorials (name after name after name, these men sacrificed their lives for ME, for MY freedom –- that’s overwhelming) and monuments (the Lincoln Memorial was my favorite), senate sessions (the senate resolved that chickens are required to be humanely killed now, y’all), and primary elections for presidential and vice-presidential candidates (Kayla Imbush, the Nationalist party’s candidate is going to dominate!). However close we are becoming (honorary sisters, really), by now we are drowning in estrogen, and everyone is obsessed with stalking the Boys Nation boys on the Internet and highly anticipating meeting them. Apparently the Alabama boys are the cutest, which is “exciting” for Mary Parrish and I. Of course, we already knew that Alabama boys were the cutest. It’s something about the South, y’all. We grow ‘em good.

-Senator Laura Ann Prickett, Foggy Bottom

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life in the Government Office

Whoa you’re halfway there,
Whoa living on a prayer!

No one describes our day as well as Bon Jovi!

Building upon energy from yesterday, the girls made the most of their Tuesday at Girls Nation. We held our party conventions this morning and we elected our Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates for each party. Congratulations and good luck!

After a lightning fast lunch, we jumped aboard the busses and headed to the White House. I can’t describe how amazing it was to meet the President of the United States. To kill time waiting on President Obama to arrive, the senators and staff began to sing a medley of patriotic songs. As we finished the second round of “You’re a Grand Old Flag” we heard applause coming from down the hallway…and President Barack Obama came out on the red carpet and into the room where we were all anxiously awaiting (some of us VERY anxiously!). He chatted with the senators, gave a short speech, and then took photos with the group of senators and the group of the staff. It was truly overwhelming.

As soon as the wheels stopped turning in the 4-H Center parking lot (and the high from meeting the President was beginning to wear off ever so slightly), we raced to Senate. While in session the senators passed SB 4 (TX) the Resident Rights Extension Act and SR 2 (NH) Humane Poultry Slaughter. We adjourned to hold quick party meetings and then we were off to flag. From flag we ran to dinner, the government staff gobbled down food and came back to do work in the office, and then we heard the story of a Holocaust survivor. Many of us were moved to tears as she spoke about her experiences before, during, and after WWII. Then we were dismissed to board the busses for a monument tour. The girls sang at the Vietnam Memorial then we visited the Lincoln Memorial and Korean Memorial. While walking along the Vietnam Wall I saw a veteran and thanked him for his military service to our country. I was quite surprised when he responded back, “Thank you girls for singing here tonight.” What we did tonight paled in comparison to the years he had served, but it meant a lot to him.

I can’t believe how much we have crammed into today (and every day). We are still in the office tonight working – and wondering just how we will make it through the rest of the week. But as the song says, we are halfway there!!

Before I sign off I wanted to share something a senator said earlier today…Senator Margolis (NC) commented in the Nationalist Party Convention, “It’s been one of the most amazing weeks of my life – and it’s only Tuesday.” I am so happy that the girls are enjoying themselves, and I know that every minute we volunteer here this week is well worth it as we see their smiles.

Til Tomorrow,
Katie Cochran
Government Staff
Indiana / Missoui

Trish's Chucks

Out here in Washington our PR Team is on the go every day making sure that we capture every special moment …and with these girls you have to be mobile and ready to run. Translation…this is no time for the high heels! In anticipation, and keeping in code with our uniform, I brought my favorite black Chuck Taylor sneaks. It’s really hard for me to fathom how this shoe has endured so many generations to evolve to one of the best known items of footwear around. After all…let’s face it …they’re not comfortable, they’re not fancy, they’re not expensive…but hey…we all have them and everyone from 5 to 75 has probably owned at least one pair! Yesterday was an awesome and special day as the Girls Nation team visited the Mologne House on the grounds of the Walter Reed Medical Center to meet with our wounded warriors and their families. Words cannot describe how it felt to see the Girls Nation senators connect with those who have been so severely injured. It was a little overwhelming for some of the guys, but as they ventured down to the picnic area, they would say, “Is anyone from Georgia?” …is anyone from “Nevada.” We watched the girls branch off to groups where they chatted, ate and conversed with these heroes. The USO show was great and the girls sang patriotic songs in the courtyard of the facility in tribute to their service and sacrifice. I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave but slowly and surely everyone started to gather up and head toward the busses. It was wonderful to see these young men and women, many who have lost multiple limbs or were otherwise severely injured, come and connect with our vibrant and compassionate senators. As our team overheard the conversation of the girls, it drifted toward, “did you see his eyes,” “wasn’t he cute,” “he was so funny.” Regardless of the terrible loss endured by these soldiers, the things that could not be taken away spoke boldly on their behalf…their charm, their humor and the very real fact that their sense of self still lived strongly and thrived. Many walked and wheeled with us to the buses and as we said our goodbyes, a young man who had lost both his legs and one arm said to me, “I love your Chucks.” So to anyone who is reading this blog, be so very grateful that if you are able to slip on your flip flops, a favorite pair of heels or lean over and tie your Chucks…you are very very lucky.

From the director...

I am so honored and feel very privileged to be the Director for Girls Nation 2011.

I have to make my brags that we have the best staff ever and the best Senators
that were chosen from each of Girls State programs.

The highlight of the week, other than visiting the White House (coming later this week) was the Wounded Warrior Picnic at the Mologne House on the complex of Walter Reed Hospital.

The Senators performed a USO Type Show for all the guests and fun was had by all.

What an awesome afternoon!


Freedom isn't free

Yesterday we visted Arlington Cemetary and we saw row upon row of white headstones. While I have always appreciated our nation, I never understood the true sacrafice so many go through just so I may live my life free and peaceful. Visiting the injured soldiers only reiterated this. I realized our freedom is not free. Doing both helped me gain new perspective I'm sure I'll carry the rest of my life.

Alex Cervantes, New Mexico

Father's remorse

Monday, July 25, 2011, was a day that changed my outlook on life. I had the honor to visit the Walter Reed Hospital and visit with men who put their lives in danger in order to protect my country. I learned that no soldier will ever walk away from a battle without a wound. Either this wound is physically seen or mentally felt; no hero will ever return the same. I was able to talk with a twenty-one year old Marine whose wounds consisted of the loss of both his legs as well as his arm. His positive outlook on life made me for a brief moment forget he was ever hurt. He told me, “Not having legs is a good thing. I can lie down on an airplane seat and stretch out.” I also had the opportunity to talk with his father who was stated, “I myself was a Marine. I never forced my son into the Marines, yet I was ecstatic when I found out he enlisted. Now I am remorseful.” The look in the father’s eyes is one that I will never forget. I asked the son if he regrets ever enlisting. He replied, “Never.” That one man along with all the other heroes fighting for my country are the reason I live in a free nation. Today was the day I can say changed my life. I will never be the same.

Cara Mund, North Dakota

a women veteran

Meeting someone who has sacrificed so much for their country, yet has worked through it is truly inspiring. Today I met a lady who had been severely injured while deployed yet when she spoke, there was a fire in her eyes and a smile on her face. She spoke passionately about her job and how excited she was to be continuing it. She told us how she hoped to be going to the Paralympics in London 2012 for swimming, in which she has already won a couple of medals at meets. The experience made me very happy and yet reminded me of how much some people sacrifice and go through for our noble country.

Kate Maffey, Pennsylvania.

Shame and emotions

Today at the wounded warrior picnic, I ran after a soldier who looked as though he was trying to hurry away as quickly as possible. When I caught up with him and the woman who was probably his mother, I handed him his flag as he tried to hide his face, which was injured. He looked absolutely ashamed. This man who has fought for my freedoms looked ashamed today because I saw him. What must our soldiers suffer when they come back from duty to fear aesthetic persecution.

I got a little emotional, which is something I try to avoid because emotions have a tendency to cloud judgment. It is so easy at times to think purely intellectually and forget that everything I do has a human consequence. Today made me remember.

Katie Lee, Mississippi

New Communications

Today at Walter Reed Hospital I had the amazing opportunity to perform the song, “God Bless America” in sign language with a senator at Girls Nation who is hearing impaired. We had been messing around during rehearsal and I followed her motions then our director asked if we would perform it while the other girls sang. I offered to have my friend sign the song on her own since that is her primary way of communication but she asked if I would join her. I felt so honored to be a part of that experience and be able to share our patriotism through another form of communication. I will always remember this memory.

Emily Dahl, Arizona

Walter Reed wounded warrior, Bree

Bree exudes confidence from every part of her body. Her gentle smile, humorous demeanor, and positive attitude lead one to think she never faced distress and horror in her life. As Bree shared her story in Afghanistan, one filled with terror, despair, and sadness; but I soon realized this was not a story of pity or regret, but a story of courage, honor, and hope. Today’s experience not only humbled me, but inspired me to be more thankful for the sacrifices made for my freedom. The experience was truly eye opening.

Tove Freeman, Massachusetts

Arlington Cemetery

Our trip to Arlington Cemetery was probably one of the more prominent things that have stayed in my mind while at girls’ nation. The precision of the white tombs and the serene atmosphere contributed to the ambiance I was taken aback by the guards’ fierce dedication to honoring the tomb of the unknown fallen soldiers; this causes me to have extreme pride in my country

Jessica Grant, New York


Today, I have been told the sacrifices others have made for freedom. Those servicemen have always had my respect, but today they have gained my admiration. The experience, to honor those that put their life on the line for my life was undesirable. The men and women at Walter Reed will always be remembered.

Morgan Lauer, Iowa

Walter Reed

Girls Nation has embedded, without doubt, an everlasting visage on my heart, for no experience can even compare. Today was exceptionally special, for I visited the honorable veterans at Walter Reed. Through solemn and playful discourse, I learned the sacrifices made, the family given up, the hard conditioning practiced, all for the service of our country. I truly admire their ability to dismiss their injuries with puns and laughter (one had a shirt that said “25% off” after losing a leg). Their determination motivates me to become stronger than the girl I currently am: to do more for the love of my country.

Siyu Liu, Ohio

Chevy Chase Community Relfections

To say this has been an amazing few days would be a gross understatement! It has been an unreal experience. We jumped right in with barely a clue of what we were doing and it didn’t take long to become comfortable with each other and the situation here (hot as it is!). We have run for party offices, senate offices, and tomorrow we will elect party candidates for president/vice president. We have gone to Arlington and Walter Reed hospital, both of which were absolutely fantastic. The veterans at Walter Reed blew me away with their courage in the face of their problems. We are so thrilled about all the opportunities here. I am so incredibly thankful that I am here; I know the week will only get better!

Abby Helvering, Indiana

Chevy Chase Community Reflections

I got the opportunity to meet a soldier and family from my home state of Idaho today at Walter Reed and I am absolutely blown away by the courage and humility I saw in these people. The soldier, his wife, and his young daughter were all welcoming and friendly and so willing to share. When I handed this man a piece of the flag and thanked him for his service, he thanked me for my sincerity. He told me most of the time when people told him that he wanted to punch them in the face, but he could tell the Girls Nation Senators meant it. I will never forget that moment.

Tess Warzyn, Idaho

Monday, July 25, 2011

All Aboard!!

Life in the Government Office

I think I can, I think I can…

We’ve all heard the story of the little red engine who thought that she could. All of the other trains refused to carry a heavy load over the mountain, but the little red engine did her best and by singing her mantra of “I think I can.” And after a few verses she made it over the mountain. Well, already I feel like the little red engine. This week seems daunting, but I know I can make it. In fact we all can and we all will.

This morning at breakfast, it was mentioned that the government staff has been here for almost an entire week already. I guess that explains why I am so tired…but another reason is because of how much we cram into a twenty-four hour period. As we do our best to keep everyone on track (pun intended), I am realizing that this week we don’t go at the pace of an old-fashioned steam engine train – Girls Nation is a bullet train!

After our initial party caucus and opening Senate Convention Sunday evening, our government train began to pick up speed. We are barreling along today with more party meetings (in which we elected our Majority and Minority Leader and our Majority and Minority Whips). Our party committees which just formed last night, have already finalized their plans for the two party rally, the conventions, and elections.

In Senate tonight, things started to heat up. We began with Senate Joint Resolution #1 presented by the Senators of New Mexico which passed. This legislation proposes Congressional term limits. Senate Resolution #1 from AZ regarding federal trusts for the National Parks also passed. Senate Bill # 1, the Alien Minor Education Relief Immigrant College Act (TN) passed. Senate Bill #2, the Green Payments Rewards Act (OK) failed. Tomorrow we are back in action.

With that said, I should be working on tomorrow’s docket for when the Senate reconvenes. Tomorrow promises to be a long and wonderful day!!

I leave you with the words of Shel Silverstein, “If the track is tough and the hill is rough, THINKING you can just ain't enough!” (The Little Blue Engine). I think the government staff is going to make it this week!!

Chugging Along,

Katie Cochran
Government Staff

Alexandria's Blog -Sunday

So off to another beautiful day here in DC! Morning brought flag raising and a tasty breakfast. Then it was off to Arlington National Cemetery. Many of the girls were relieved to step on to the air-conditioned bus and out of the sauna known as the outside. The cemetery was beautiful and everyone felt a significant amount of respect in the air. The tour busses loaded our minds while we loaded our cameras and once we had arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown the air became so incredibly still. As we watched the guard walk back and forth, we waited on the steps of the giant amphitheater. After the ceremonial changing of the guard and laying of the wreath we made yesterday, we headed inside to the amphitheater. Another fantastic program with an example of how we here at Girls Nation are all different, yet still very the same. A handful of delegates shared their religions with us and how it has impacted their lives; everything from Latter Day Saints to Muslim and even Judaism. After that we had one of the guards come and talk to us for a while about his job and his army lifestyle. When that ended, it was back to the busses to return to the hotel for another speaker. Steve Robertson, a retired lobbyist, taught us the importance of knowing your information about an issue when lobbying, always remembering to follow up with a client, and to never assume your opponent’s position on an issue. He was very eloquent and a pleasure to have. After lunch, we began the election process with the appointment of our new Party Delegates. When we had selected our eight delegates from the eight communities, we ventured on to our first party caucus. Here we selected committees and we elected our Party Chairman, Party Vice-Chairman, and our Party Secretary. After creating a heaping ton of decorations, chants, and skit ideas for our rally, our parties were well on their way to a great election. Dinner came and went and it was off to choir rehearsal for our trip to Walter Reed Hospital tomorrow. Following that was a massively inspiring and touching talk with the National President, Carlene Ashworth. Many girls took more than one new idea away with them after it. Another round of elections followed the speaker. This time it was the President Pro Tempore, Senate Secretary, Senate Chaplain, Senate Sergeant at Arms, Senate News Secretary, and the appointment of the Assistant Secretary and the Assistant Sergeant at Arms. With the new officers in action, we broke off in to committees to start taking a look at the many genius bills and resolutions to pass on to the senate floor. Finally, ending with a final choir rehearsal before tomorrow, and completing a very successful day.

Maggie Whiteman (Washington)

Life in the Government Office

Although Sunday is considered by some to be a day of rest, that certainly isn’t the case in the government office! Today our morning started with flag raising at 6:30 am. We thought we were up early enough to beat the heat or to avoid the bugs, but it looks like we were mistaken. I think that is going to be a theme this week. After a tour of Arlington National Cemetery, a wreath-laying ceremony, a question and answer session with a Guard from the Tomb of the Unknowns, and an ecumenical service, the Senators were back and the government staff was ready for some action.

After lunch the wheels on the government staff started to rock and roll. Each community selected one girl from each party to serve as their Party Delegate. In the Party caucuses both the Federalists and the Nationalists elected a Party Chairman, Party Vice-Chairman, and a Party Secretary. These six young women are committed to leading their parties to victory in the presidential elections later this week. Also, this afternoon both parties established their five committees (elections, campaign, convention, platform and credentials/rules) and got a lot of committee work done. I was with the Nationalists and learned a number of cheers and how to “BOOM! Shake it out, Shake it out!!” with the girls.

Following flag retreat and dinner our 2011 Girls Nation Senate officially convened. The American Legion Auxiliary National President, Carlene Ashworth, began the session by addressing our Senators and reminding them of the power of one. Then we elected our Senate Officials. Congratulations to our newly elected Senate officials – Jane and I are looking forward to working with you!

Following elections it was time to crack open the legislative packets and look at all of the legislation that will be debated this week. (For those of you following along from home, be sure to check out this year’s bills and resolutions on the website!) Our committees met this evening and started to discuss and amend the bills.

Looking ahead the government staff knows this week holds few guarantees, but we know that legislation will pass, legislation will fail, the government staff will get very little sleep and we will all frequently hear, “THAT SENATOR IS OUT OF ORDER!!”

Katie Cochran
Government Staff

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Trish's Blog

It was a special day at Arlington National Cemetery as our Girls Nation Senators visited the hallowed ground of this most revered national treasure…where those who have served our country…enlisted sailors to five star generals to Presidents … lie in rest among their comrades. On this very warm but beautiful day in our nation’s capitol, four senators were chosen to lay the memorial wreath on behalf of Girls Nation. We were all excited when members of the 3rd Regiment Old Guard invited the girls (I tagged along with the camera-Yippee!) into their Guard House where they spoke of the tradition of the Old Guard and showed them memorabilia of this very special team of men and women. Yes…we were told that women have been members of this regiment, but that currently none are on the roster. After a moving all-faith Ecumenical Service in the amphitheater, Cpl. John Baker of the Old Guard returned to answer questions about the history, mission and special commitment of this team. We stopped to pay respects at the grave of Audie Murphy, the most decorated veteran of WWII and learned more about Arlington’s historical significance to our country during the tram ride around the grounds. From common man to those well-known, all are heroes. Returning to home base, former American Legion lobbyist and congressional staff member Steve Robertson shared details about serving as a lobby activist on behalf of our veterans. Great questions were posed and young minds were engaged to consider how lobbyist actions make a difference in legislation. So far…so good…we’re off to a GREAT START and we know GREAT THINGS are about to happen for 98 amazing young women!

Trish Ward, Department of Kansas

Spring Valley (7/23)

Our first day in Washington, D.C was filled with excitement in meeting new friends and lots of humidity. As all of the girls arrived from our flights, we were greeted by friendly counselors and other girls who share our same passions. After we got to the 4-H National Convention Center, we stood in a plethora of lines, signing up for different activities and getting our room assignments. Once we got our rooms situated, we met with all the girls in our amazing community, Spring Valley. We quickly ran around the 4H Center for a very difficult scavenger hunt in which Spring Valley had a hard time figuring out some clues.

The Spring Valley Sparklers will be sparkling all week long, and we can’t wait to see what this week has in store for us! So far, all the girls are friendly and very excited to share their experiences in Washington, DC together. We aren’t wait for tomorrow!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Successful launch and all systems GO! The girls are arriving and everyone is getting to know each other. It was great hanging out at the airport and being part of the welcoming party. No one was left out of the fun…as new girls arrived and were introduced it was like they all had been friends for ever! In spite of some really long flights…everyone was smiling and excited. Kudos to our awesome Senior and Junior Counselors and great staff for executing an afternoon to be remembered.

Merry Christmas 2011 Girls Nation

Life in the Government Office

Last night I was sitting in the Government office and I was surprised at how silent it was. The copier which had faithfully cranked out 4,000 copies for me earlier that day was getting some well deserved rest. The computer monitors were casting their glow, the printer silently hummed in its hibernation, and the piles of legislative packets were stacked neatly in the corner. It really reminded me of Christmas.

Perhaps that sounds odd as we are in the middle of 100 degree heat wave. But last night I had that quiet anticipation that I associate with Christmas Eve. In fact, like a young child, I even found it a little hard to fall asleep last night! Surely you have experienced that same that feeling on Christmas Eve. You know the one I mean. You’ve been working hard for weeks to decorate, cook, wrap presents, and ensure that everyone you meet gets just the perfect dose of Christmas cheer. In much the same way, the Girls Nation staff is anticipating the arrival of this year’s Senators. The entire staff has been working so hard to get everything ready for these girls. Our tinsel and garland are hanging in their glamorous red, white, and blue. We don’t have milk and cookies either, but the ice cream machine in the cafeteria is sure to be put to good use.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is getting to spend time with family. To me, the Girls State staff and the Girls Nation staff are a part of my family. We don’t see each other all the time, but the time we spend together is filled with love and laughter. Staffers share smiles, tears, late night chats, and early morning meetings together. We come together from across our states or country and for at least one week – I have the greatest group of mothers, sisters, cousins, grandmothers, and of course, Crazy Aunt Jane. Although none of them have really met before, this years Senators are going to form the same bond that the staff shares. Their communities will become their families – just you wait and see.

But perhaps everyone’s favorite part of Christmas is the exchanging of gifts. There is a joy that comes from seeing a child open a present and their eyes light up with excitement. Well, the staff hasn’t wrapped any presents this year. You can search the entire conference site and never find a shiny package with your name on it. However, I know that the girls this year will receive the greatest present we can give them. Their lives will be changed forever. We will give them experiences they will never again be able to have. They will gain more than one would think is possible. They will meet people, see sights, and create memories that simply can’t fit in a box. But if it could, we’d put a large bow on it and give it to you.

Merry Christmas Girls Nation 2011!

Katie Cochran
Government Staff

Blast off

5-4-3-2-1-…we’re about ready to blast off for the 65th session of the American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation event in Washington, DC. The girls arrive today and EVERYONE’S excited. As a member of the PR team again this year…I’m looking forward to helping capture all the awesome and special moments that are sure to occur. For sure…it’s amazing to be here as an American Legion Auxiliary volunteer and as an active member, I look forward to connecting with these brilliant young women who bring so much excitement and enthusiasm. Thanks to all the Departments for their commitment to the Girls State program and for participating in this flagship event. We will do our best to make this a fun, interesting and informative week for the 98 young women who are about to arrive. You know…we all do so much to help our veterans, military and their families that I can’t wait to continue the process of telling everyone about our awesome work. So everyone out there who’s reading this blog…talk about our mission…talk about our programs…talk about our amazing 90-year tradition. You know…at the end of the day …the only thing we really own is our story. Help us tell the story.

Trish Ward, Department of Kansas

Friday, July 22, 2011

Who’s Who in the Girls Nation Government Office

As President of the United States, Barack Obama wears serves many roles. He serves as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, he is the Chief Executive, Chief Ambassador, and so many more. At the American Legion Auxiliary, the wonderful ladies who work in the government office wear many hats too.

Andy Dobson is our fearless leader. She has served on the GN government staff for an undisclosed number of years  and really knows her federal government. Her official title is Government Director meaning that she heads the government office and does her best to keep the rest of us in line. Andy also serves as the Federalist Party Leader where she is hoping to lead the Feds to victory!

Traveling with Andy from Washington State is Patty Griffith. Patty is delighted to be back on government staff again this year. Patty serves as the Nationalist Party Leader and is contemplating a bet with Andy about which party is going to win this year…something about singing in front of the entire bus? Patty also reduces the stress level in the office considerably in her role as ‘Technical Guru.’

Jane Thurston, of Indiana, is the Senate Leader at Girls Nation. She enjoys running the Senate sessions and keeping the legislative gears in motion. As this year’s delegates have submitted their legislation, Jane has worked tirelessly to edit the bills and resolutions, research the proposals, and she has been brushing up on her parliamentary procedure. Another hat Jane wears at Girls Nation is that of Assistant Federalist Party Leader.

My name is Katie Cochran and I am from Indiana / Missouri. This is my first year on the Government Staff at Girls Nation, which has earned me the affectionate nickname of “New Kid on the Block.” My job is to pretty much do whatever is asked of me. Officially my titles this year include Legislative Assistant (which means I help Jane during the Senate sessions) and I am the Assistant Nationalist Party Leader (so I help Patty out when we have party meetings). Also, since I never learned to keep my mouth shut, I have the additional role of blogging for the Government Staff this week. I know it will be a busy week but I will try to let you know about the exciting things happening in our corner of the world.

We are looking forward to a great week with this year’s delegates and we hope that you enjoy learning about how the Government Office works!

-Katie Cochran, Indiana/Missouri