One of the most important things a public servant can do is help inspire those who will one day replace them.
Even though we've been hard at work in town, with a budget that’ll include what’s likely to be the lowest tax increase since the 1990s, the groundbreaking with Jonathan Rose Companies on the 215 rental unit, 533 parking space, LEED-silver mixed-use project on Third and Valley, getting a $340k grant for the Fire Department and $150k for the library and so much more, investment in our future is still a top priority, and not just from a budgeting perspective.
This was more clear to me than ever this past December, when I was speaking to classes at South Mountain elementary. A third grade student asked whether a woman could be mayor. After explaining that fortunately people are much more open minded than they used to be about politics, and that with hard work and the right motivations, anyone can be anything, I was inspired by the reaction from the young girl, who clearly from this moment forward was determined to hold public office.
In recognition of this student's interest in civics participation, I began the "Village President For A Day" program in February of this year, and third grader Gunjan Jacinto was the first SOMSD student to participate, calling a Board meeting to order and presiding over the passing of a resolution. Watch the video below:
This week, we took our second Village President For A Day, Marshall school second grader Aidan Egan-Liang on a personal tour of the South Orange Police Department, where he got to learn first hand all about the technology and work our police do to keep us all safe. And he had quite a time learning more about the inner workings for the men and women in uniform.
In a system where politics is often put before service, I think it's crucial that we provide spaces for young people to not only learn objectively without ideological or partisan involvement, how to be leaders, but almost more importantly, to learn that they can.
Hopefully I can continue to do my small part in helping our young people realize the power they have as individuals. Please keep this spirit alive, and help it grow - so many of us are disillusioned with whether government can really tackle some of the challenges that lay before it. But one of the best things we can do for the future is to help motivate more people to get involved and lend their energy and creativity towards the process, especially those who will have to bear the brunt of the effects of decisions that we make today.
Thanks for everything that you all do, keep an eye out for our next student leader around town, and please feel free to spread the positivity to your neighbors!
(ps, as part of helping trying to encourage more young people to take a more active role in civics, I started Rethink Leadership, a nonpartisan initiative to help get more young people interested in running for office. Check out what some other young leaders are doing across the country)