Students more remarkable than world leaders
By By SONNY CALLAHAN
During my sixteen years as a member of the United States House of Representatives, I have met with some of the most powerful men and women in the world. These leaders, both foreign and domestic, have provided me with some of the most memorable – and most challenging – experiences of my life.
Whether it be a discussion on foreign aid with the president of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, or a meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a water project in the First Congressional District, I am constantly reminded of the quality of our leadership here and abroad. We are truly blessed to have some extremely bright and gifted individuals in leadership roles today.
While this may surprise some, many of the most remarkable episodes in my career have been provided by the outstanding students of the First Congressional District each year at my annual high school day for government leaders.
Students sharing opinions
I began this annual high school conference early in my congressional career as a way of giving government and journalism students from south Alabama the opportunity to question representatives from all levels of state and federal government, as well as members of the gulf coast broadcast and print media.
Each year, I have found these gatherings to be extremely successful, and it is a great way of encouraging the leaders of tomorrow to take an interest in the events shaping the world around them.
Clearly, the First District is producing some top-notch students that do indeed take an interest in the world around them.
And these students are most definitely not shy about sharing their questions and opinions with our leaders today.
Several years ago, one young lady at my conference questioned our then-governor about the quality of the process involved in determining which textbooks are selected for use by Alabama students.
Attorney General Bill Pryor has been asked tough questions regarding the rationale behind Alabama's continued use of capital punishment as a crime deterrent and the current state of our legal system.
Members of the media have been questioned on how they perceive their role in shaping the world around them, and why some stories are selected for airing while other, seemingly more crucial stories, are left out.
Even I have not been able to escape the probing questions of these young men and women. I can remember on many occasions being quizzed on the level of success of American foreign policy, the rationale used in the distribution of aid to overseas nations, and even on the success of the budgeting system used each year here in the United States.
Clearly, these are not the types of questions posed by students "just trying to pass the class." These are the thoughtful questions asked by young men and women who are taking a genuine interest in the world in which we all live. In a real way, they are doing their part to help shape the decisions made by our leaders.
I am well aware of the difficult decisions facing the leaders of our local and state school systems in the weeks and months to come. Budgetary shortfalls of any type are a disturbing situation, but even more so when the shortfalls affect the quality of education our students receive.
However, my annual high school conference shows that, regardless of the number of teachers in our schools, or the amount of money available for textbooks, the most powerful educational tools available today are the minds of our bright and successful young men and women.
Next conference weeks away
I am happy to announce that my next workshop for high school leaders will be held on Monday, April 30, 2001, on the campus of the University of South Alabama. Each of the high schools in the First District has been notified of this conference, and I look forward to seeing many of the next generation of leaders at this event. With the slate of invited guests who will attend this year, this should prove to be the best conference yet.
If you have any questions regarding this event, please feel free to contact Matt Rhodes in my district office at (334)690-2811 or (800)288-8721.
Until next week, take care and God Bless.