Today was the last day of American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation. Tomorrow morning, senators and counselors alike will board different buses, fly on different planes, and land in different states. But as we leave, we are leaving with changed lives.
After today’s ceremonies and speeches, an ALA Girls Nation senator remarked, “This week I gained twelve sisters… Actually, I might have earned 98 sisters.”
And it’s true. Not only have we gained 98 sisters, but we have earned more than 6,500 sisters. Each year the ALA Girls Nation family grows bigger and bigger, and we will go on to find an ALA Girls Nation sister in unexpected places for our entire lives.
Senators Bernie Sommers and Sydney Bright met with Christine Hill who worked on the staff of a Veterans Affair Sub-Committee. After the senators began to walk away the staff member came running out asking the girls if they wanted a picture. She said she thought we’d want it because we blogged every night, and she knew that because her daughter went to ALA Girls Nation, too. Senators have already begun to hear about the sisters they haven’t even met.
Along with new sisters, the girls have a new-found love of patriotism. One senator’s mom remarked that our singing in the National Mall was, “truly beautiful, and good old fashioned patriotism.” And the girls have all agreed that those feelings will not die here, because defending the United States of America and the freedoms this country stands for is worth dying for.
As true sisters in patriotism who will soon be parting ways, we have been asked to remember who we are as women, and human beings. The poem, Phenomenal Women by Maya Angelou exemplifies that:
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size. But when I start to tell them, They think I’m telling lies. I say, It’s in the reach of my arms, The span of my hips, The stride of my step, The curl of my lips. I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me. Now you understand, Just why my head’s not bowed. I don’t shout or jump about, Or have to talk real loud. When you see me passing, It ought to make you proud. I say, It’s in the click of my heels, The bend of my hair, the palm of my hand, The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.
Every ALA Girls Nation senator, counselors, and staff could stand and say this as if it were their own words. We are Phenomenal Women. And we are women with the power to change the world, and even once you leave ALA Girls Nation and life begins to hit you hard in the face, remember what Ms. Janet Jefford said when she quoted Mark Twain and asked us to seek our purpose in life.
And as we find that purpose, we will begin to see your fellow senators in passing and it will make you proud of your sisters. And because of one another you will say, “It’s the fire in my eyes, And the flash of my teeth, The swing in my waist, And the joy in my feet. We are women Phenomenally. Phenomenal women, That’s you and me.”
Phenomenal women, like Senior Counselors Rosemarie Hauck, are already so proud of these senators. As the American Legion Auxiliary continues to do amazing things, she implored eligible ALA Girls Nation girls to join the ALA and perpetuate the cause.
Sydney Bright who is already in the process of joining her local American Legion Auxiliary unit said, “Like my ALA Girls State senior counselor told me, ‘Many Auxiliary members are getting too old to carry the torch and they aren’t being replaced by younger members. But you give me hope for the Auxiliary. And even if you aren’t eligible to join, you can always volunteer and serve them.’”
So to the world, the rising generation of female leaders is here to stay and drive change. ALA Girls Nation is coming to an end, but the things we’ve learned and the memories and connections that have been made will affect this generation of women for a lifetime.
But to the ALA Girls Nation senators, don’t forget the patriotism you’ve felt and always remember to salute your flag and defend your country. Apply the lessons and memories you’ve made to your life beyond the 4-H Center, and always remember your brand new sisters. Be proud of them as they learn and grow and find their purpose, just like you. You are one in twenty million.
Until next year ALA Girls Nation!
Sydney Bright and Bethesda