|Matthew Wilson of Wethersfield, Conn.,
addressing U.S. Rep. John Larson’s youth cabinet
By Yelena Samofalova and ErezBittan
HARTFORD, Connecticut,U.S.A. – Three years after U.S. Rep.John Larson broke ground by creating for the first time a youth cabinet toadvise him, a second congressman has followed suit.
The Missouricongressman, William Lacy Clay, said he decided to create his own after seeingLarson’s group in action during an event last summer at the Harriett BeecherStowe House in Hartford that drew a number of members of the CongressionalBlack Caucus.
On Saturday,the two youth panels held a joint session by teleconference to talk about theirexperiences and to address the topic of bullying.
U.S. Rep. John Larson’s youth cabinet
The purposeof the cabinets is to give young adults a voice in the operation of theirgovernment.
Larson saidyoung people should have more access to the “levers of power in the UnitedStates Congress” and the cabinets are one way to make it happen.
One ofLarson’s aides, Eva Bunnell, who came up with idea years ago, said she feels “youngpeople deserve a seat at the table.”
Larson saidthat generally, “The opinions of youth are not taken seriously enough.”
Larson saidhis youth cabinet, which has representatives from most of the high schools inhis district, is “actually making change” through its work. “It’s not just apassive appointment,” Larson said.
Cabinetmember Matthew Wilson, a junior at Wethersfield High School in Wethersfield,Conn., said “even raising awareness of any issue by youth is really effectiveand just having this partnership with the congressman, where he listens to whatwe have to say and attempts to shape policy around it, that is very effective.”
Clay saidthe cabinets are a great example of what energized young people can offer totheir community.
The acting co-chairmanof the Congressional Youth Cabinet, Calvin Brown of Bristol, said that in orderto have their voices heard, teens should get “involved with various things thatare going on” around them.
“They bringto the table what’s going on in their own towns,” Bunnell said.
Wilson saidthat they measure their effectiveness by the number of people who approach themwith problems.
The newMissouri cabinet and the Connecticut cabinet may soon have more partners. Larson said two more are in the works inother states.
“It’s greatto see our numbers continue to grow,” Larson said.
Clay said hehopes it will “spread like wildfire” and their end goal is to have 435 cabinetsall over the nation, one for each congressional district.
Larson saidhe would like to bring the youth cabinet to the nation’s capital to meetgovernment officials.
He said hewould put them on train in Hartford and “we’ll boogie right into Grand Central”Station in New York before heading south to Washington.
Clay saidhe’d like to bring the two cabinets together at the Capitol but his group wouldhave to fly there from Missouri.
They bothsaid that perhaps two other youth cabinets that are forming elsewhere may beable to participate, too.
Larson saidit couldn’t be a long trip because members are so busy but he’s sure it wouldbe great.
Senior ReporterKiernan Majerus-Collins contributed to this story.