Several years ago, students at Hays-Lodge Pole High School took state Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy’s challenge to get involved in Montana politics
When Windy Boy attended a class, students wanted to know why there were St. Patrick’s Day and Columbus Day to honor the Irish and Italians, but there was no holiday to honor Montana’s Native Americans.
The Irish and Italians had lobbied in behalf of their days, the senator said. No one had lobbied for a Native American day.
So the students began a letter-writing campaign that morphed into a full-fledged lobbying effort to convince Helena lawmakers to establish a day honoring Native Americans.
Prompted by the students, lawmakers established the day.
This comes to mind after Karen Sloan, a defeated candidate for the state Legislature herself, proposed at a video conference meeting with lawmakers last week that a fundraising effort be undertaken to allow students taking part in the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership High School to visit the state Capitol during a legislative session.
Seeing the Legislature in session and seeing its committees operate would be an education dozens of civics class lectures could not provide.
It’s unlikely such a fund drive could take place this year, but we hope many groups take a look at providing their students with a first-hand look at democracy in action .
A story by College News Service last week showed that four new Republican members of the Legislature are under 30, joining some young Democrats who were elected two years ago.
The elections of these younger lawmakers shows that the business of lawmaking is no longer the business of old men.
But whether youngsters visiting Helena are going to become active in politics or just be good citizens, they will benefit from seeing Montana’s government in action.
Whether they are pages who serve a week in Helena helping lawmakers perform their duties or just visitors who see a few hours of legislative deliberations, young people will benefit from seeing the Legislature in action.