Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Passing the Torch

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm of Durant

Hello again, everybody! This week, as part of the celebration of Constitution Day, I again made my trip to schools across southern Oklahoma to talk with students about representative democracy.

Since becoming your senator, the week of Constitution Day has been one to which I most look forward. Every year, the National Conference of State Legislatures sponsors “America’s Legislators Back to School” during the week we celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

This week was chosen because it is when we celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. During the week, I try to visit as many schools as possible across my district, and I’ve been on the road every day traveling from one school to another. Our Constitution is nothing short of a miraculous document. It established a government that for the first time on Earth put political power in the hands of the people rather than those who govern. As I tell the students, that means you are the boss and I work for you.

With that power, I remind the students, come serious responsibilities. The most important of those responsibilities is to register to vote when they turn 18, and then to exercise that right whenever the polls open. That is how they give instructions to those of us who serve in public office.

Constitution Day 2007 is a special one for us here in Oklahoma. September 17, 2007 not only marked the 220th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, it marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of Oklahoma’s Constitution.

My first stop in my district this week – appropriately – was in Tishomingo, hometown of “Alfalfa Bill” Murray. Alfalfa Bill was the president of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention. Few individuals left a more indelible mark on Oklahoma’s history than Alfalfa Bill.

The first three words of the U.S. Constitution – “We the People” – and in Oklahoma’s Constitution the words “All political power is inherent in the people” reflect the heart of representative democracy. Those words remind all of in elective office that we work for you.

More than 30 years ago, when I was a student at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Durant, an elected official visited my classroom. It has been so long, I cannot even remember who it was, but I do remember something he said. He told us that his job in public service was “to make things better.”

That was the first spark that led me to one day wanting to serve in public office. I consider that simple but eloquent description of public service the most important message I can deliver to the students with whom I visit. It is my way to “pass the torch to a new generation.”

Thanks again for reading the "Senate Minute"; have a great week and may God bless you all.

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