August 10, 1998
by Deborah Stone
Woodinville High School student Morgan Greenwood recently returned from the American Legion Auxiliary's 52nd session of Girls' Nation held at the 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Greenwood was one of ninety-six high school juniors country-wide selected to participate in Girls' Nation, a hands-on government education program that teaches high school girls about the processes and functions of national government.
Girls' Nation is the culmination of the Girls' State programs conducted yearly across the country. To be selected for Girls' Nation is a great honor, and only two students are chosen per state.
Greenwood is a leader at WHS and is active in DECA, as well as a member of the swim and track teams, jazz, pop, symphonic and marching bands, Letterman's Club and National Honor Society. Also, she is an ASA Interhigh Representative.
Upon their arrival in Maryland, the young "senators" organized themselves into political parties, elected party officials and put on a national convention. They coordinated political campaign activities for party candidates, were appointed to federal positions, prepared legislation in mock Senate sessions and elected a president and vice president.
Their experience also included visits with U.S. Senators, Representatives and other government officials on Capitol Hill, as well as sightseeing excursions to the various monuments in the D.C. area.
There were several special guests who spoke with the participants, including NASA Astronaut Lieutenant Commander Lisa Nowak, U.S. Representative and Ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights Nancy Rubin, Lieutenant General Claudia Jean Kennedy, Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Intelligence and American Legion Auxiliary President, Barbara Kranig.
The high point of the week was a meeting with President Clinton where the "senators" presented him with the bills enacted during their sessions.
For Greenwood, this was the highlight of the week. She says, "Meeting the President was very exciting. I was determined to talk to him when it was my turn to introduce myself in the receiving line. I actually had a short conversation with him in which I asked about his recent controversial and exhilarating trip to China and spoke to him about reducing teen smoking. We also discovered that we play the same model of alto saxophone which is a fun coincidence."
Greenwood returned with a better understanding of the process of democracy and a new awareness of politicians' jobs. "Politicians really do care," explains Greenwood, "and they truly represent their constituents. I admit I was skeptical at first about them, but after talking with several of them and seeing how they work, as well as experiencing government operations first hand, I have a new respect for them. They're not in politics to get the glory. They want to make changes and help people."
Morgan enjoyed her visits with Washington State Congressman Rick White and Senator Patty Murray and found them very responsive to new ideas and opinions. In addition, she was influenced by some of the women speakers, particularly Claudia Jean Kennedy.
"She is the highest ranking female in the Armed Services," states Greenwood. "She is a strong woman and her message was that as a woman, don't let anyone stand in your way. Go after what you want and what you think is right." As a member of Girls' Nation, Morgan feels she has enhanced many of her personal skills.
She says, "My public speaking skills have gotten so much stronger, especially the ability to think and speak off the top of my head in a clear and persuasive manner."
After graduation Greenwood plans to attend college to pursue a major in international business and/or political science and hopes to study abroad in France.
"My Girls' Nation experience was an incredible learning experience," says Greenwood. "I feel honored to have participated, and being among the other girls from all over the U.S. was wonderful. We became a close knit group and it was great to see everyone excited about the issues. High school kids are at a very influential age as we will be voting soon. It's important for everyone to get interested in current events and politics because these things effect all of us. We have to stop apathy and try to care more about what's happening around us."
Representing American Legion Boys Nation from Washington State was WHS student Sina Nazemi. Nazemi participated in an experience similar to Greenwood. He was unavailable for an interview.