Young Leaders Tour Pentagon During ‘Washington Week’
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 13, 2009 American high school students from around the world toured the Pentagon today, capping off a weeklong visit to the nation’s capital and what many of them called one of the most exciting experiences of their young lives.
The 104 students were selected to come here as part of the 47th Annual U.S. Senate Youth Program’s “Washington Week” to see, firsthand, American politics in action. The delegates were selected among thousands of applicants, all high school juniors and seniors representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity.
Today, during their Pentagon tour, they walked the busy corridors and learned the different aspects of national defense and its history. They also met with Air Force Lt. Gen. Paul Selva, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who oversees international relations and political-military matters that require close, personal control by the chairman.
Their visit also included time at the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and the White House. They met congressmen, cabinet members, officials from the Defense and State departments and a Supreme Court justice. The student delegates were afforded the opportunity to hear national and world policy addresses from the political leaders as well as pick their brains about why they became public servants.
“We got to see [government] in motion, and it was a great opportunity,” Michael Boone, student government president of Kaiserslautern High School in Heidelberg, Germany, and DoDEA representative, said. “It’s a great chance and great opportunity to meet other delegates and people from around our nation.”
But the most exciting portion of “Washington Week” was meeting the nation’s president, Boone said.
“My favorite event so far was meeting the president of the United States,” he said. “So that was quite an honor. He’s my role model, and that was the highlight of my week.”
Luke Moragne, student council president of David Glasgow Farragut High School in Rota, Spain, and also a DoDEA representative, said meeting President Barack Obama was the highlight of his week too.
“[Meeting the president] is a once in a lifetime thing,” Moragne said. “People always see him on TV, but I actually got to meet him. It was incredible shaking the president’s hand.”
Moragne said he also enjoyed seeing “government in action.” He described the responsibilities of congressmen and political officials as “not an easy task.”
“I’ve actually gotten to see real senators and an actual real Senate vote,” Moragne said. His impression is that “it’s hard to be a senator or the president and uphold our American ideals. You definitely get the impression from every single person in politics of how smart and sharp and serious they are.”
For aspiring youth senate delegates who want to participate in future programs, Boone and Moragne recommend staying informed on current world issues.
“Be heavily involved in high school,” Moragne said. “Do every little thing you can possibly do [and] stay up on your politics. [Student delegates] here actually really love politics, which is kind of nice and surprising.”
Boone, the son of an Army colonel, hopes to pursue a career in environmental engineering with the aspiration of helping to create an environment in which people will live longer and breathe healthier, he said.
Moragne, whose grandmother works in human resources for the Navy in Rota, recently was accepted into the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I. From there, he hopes to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and eventually become a Marine Corps intelligence officer or lawyer, he said.
The U.S. Senate Youth Program began in 1962, and is sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation with the hope to increase young Americans’ understanding of the three branches of American government, according to the program’s Web site. The delegates are nominated each fall by their private or public schools, and must hold student body office or another elected or appointed position in their communities and show academic interest and aptitude in government, history and politics.