CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to shadow Senator Greg Ball of the 40th New York State Senate district. This opportunity will be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I say this because it gave me, a High School Junior from Chappaqua, an inside look at something that can be shrouded and mysterious to Americans, yet is at the core of everything we believe in.
Lawmaking and the world of politics are often portrayed to the American public as something mysterious because, at the national level, we focus on the spectacular controversies and groundbreaking new laws that those two things produce. When we focus on the ability of public servants to do seemingly superhuman things, like touch the lives of millions, how can we not see politicians as anything but people like you and me? Yet, in Albany, I was shocked by how human and approachable the Senator and other public servants I met seemed to be. Being able to watch the lawmaking process at the state level and gain insight into the job of a state senator was very enlightening, and having a personal experience with my elected official showed me just how important and easy it is to participate in government.
I watched several groups of people meet with Senator Ball in an attempt to lobby for his support. From this experience, I began to understand the potential role that people could play in shaping public policy. Remarkably, everyone who tried to lobby Senator Ball that day was simply a concerned citizen; nurses concerned about their patients, organ transplant recipients concerned about others like them, and a family concerned about the victims of child molestation were all seeking Ball’s support that day. From these people, I learned that it’s important to participate in government and that if you tell your representative what concerns you it can help to bring about real change, and potentially turn your activism into a successful campaign for reform. Partly because of my experience with the Senator, I now believe that it’s very important to get involved with government at the state and local level, especially when our representatives in the national government consistently fail to pass meaningful legislation. It’s so important for us not to forget about the political framework that we have the unalienable right to use to promote the common good. We have the power to influence our legislators, they’re reachable people and we can make them believe in our causes. If there’s one thing that the Students Inside Albany conference taught me, it’s that we have the power to forge our own future using our own lawmakers, because after all, lawmakers are people too, and they’re very willing to be approached by concerned citizen-activists with issues.
Jacob Bayer Horace Greeley High School Class of 2014
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