Three months ago, I was blessed to be selected as Spring Branch Independent School District’s representative to Texas Girls State sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. I hadn’t realized how big an honor that was until, three weeks ago, I attended Texas Girls State. There, as I learned how government works, how policies and legislation are developed, and how ideas and strategies are implemented, I realized that not only was it a humongous honor, but it was also an experience that had tremendous impact on me and my life.When I arrived at Girls State, I was immediately taken aback by how much the staff expected us to accomplish in one week.
They told us that we would establish our own republic government, elect officials, pass laws, and introduce and debate proposed legislation to the House or Senate. If I chose to run for office, I would have to write campaign speeches, create campaign posters, and deliver speeches to a crowd of three-hundred-and-fifty people. Every morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m.
in order to be in the breakfast line by 6:55 a.m. After we ate, we attended the flag raising ceremony, and then we assembled to hear amazing speakers such as: Carole Strayhorn, Joaquin Castro, Julian Castro, Justice Phil Johnson, and Judge Mike Keasler. After lunch, the Senate and House convened, and the rest of the day was spent learning more about our government. (For example, we attended lectures on the state and local government, the judiciary branch, and the legislative branch.) We usually collapsed in our dorm rooms by 11:30 p.m.
One highlight for me was when I sang ‘God Bless the USA’ in the talent show, while wearing my Grandma’s WW II Army uniform which she wore as a nurse in Burma, Pakistan, and India. As I sang, the entire audience sang with me and then they stood up and held hands with each other. It was one of the most beautiful, un-orchestrated, sights I’d ever seen in my entire life.But out of my eight days at Texas Girls State, my favorite part was when the House convened.
During these sessions, I was known as ‘Representative Healy from Houston,’ and I used that to my advantage by creating and introducing House Bill Number 12, giving an authorization speech for my bill, submitting both affirmative and negative debate (depending upon the bill), addressing Madame Speaker, and by sponsoring a Senator’s bill. Although I did all of these things, it wasn’t easy. Every time I stood up to make a motion, there was always a chance that Madame Speaker would bang her mallet and cry, ‘Out of Order!’ Being recognized to speak was an ordeal in itself, because I had to compete with approximately three-hundred-and-fifty other girls. And since I had never spoken before more than thirty people, public speaking was a colossal challenge and accomplishment.
At Girls State, I not only learned how to write bills, stand up in the House, sponsor a bill, and correctly address Madame Speaker, but I also learned how important voting really is when I ran for Justice of the Court of Criminal Appeals. During my campaign, I had to work constantly making posters and staying up till two a.m. writing and practicing my speeches. Unfortunately I lost my race, but by losing I learned the stress that politicians have to endure and the substantial stamina that it takes to run for office.
Through this experience, I had many opportunities to learn what did and didn’t work. For example, I learned that superior speeches work, substandard speeches don’t; being sociable works, being surly doesn’t; and premium presentations work, poor presentations don’t. By witnessing who won, I learned how to win, what makes a candidate into a winner, and why the winner won.
This changed me in many ways. Not only did I become a better speaker, but I now care so much more about our politics, policies, and politicians. I now love reading the newspaper, analyzing our politician’s recent bills, and understanding our legislature.My trip to Texas Bluebonnet Girls State was definitely an eye-opener as it showed me how our government works, why it works, and how we can improve it.
It presented a new, better, more educated way of looking at the world and it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.To our Founding Fathers and the American Legion Auxiliary, I am in your debt. Thank you.
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