New Bethlehem Teen’s ‘Love for Country’ Grown After Week in D.C. as Youth Senator
WASHINGTON, D.C. (EYT) – Many armchair politicians would relish an opportunity to question Chief Justice John Roberts about what it is like to be one of nine people to make decisions on issues that affect the lives of more than 300 million people.
(Photos by Erin Lubin and Jakub Mosur)
Maybe others would enjoy hearing ABC’s Martha Raddatz’s opinion on fake news and the effect that it has had on both reputable and non-reputable news outlets.
Surely, a great many Pennsylvanians would happily accept an invitation to meet privately with Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey to discuss the issues that affect many across the Keystone State.
No matter where one may line up on the political spectrum, there surely would not be many that would turn down a private meeting with the President of the United States, would they?
For Redbank Valley senior, Colin Sheffer, he got to do all of those things and more as he spent a week in the nation’s capital as one of 104 youth senators for the 57th Annual United States Senate Youth Program.
Read more about how Sheffer was selected for the prestigious program, here.
Sheffer flew into D.C. on March 2nd for what would be a packed week of unique and rare opportunities for a Senator to accomplish in a single week, let alone a current high school senior.
Upon arrival, Sheffer and his 103 other fellow Senators (in addition to hosting two youth senators from each state, D.C. and the Department of Defense were also represented by two individuals) were shown their accommodations at the historic Mayflower Hotel.
For Sheffer, it was obvious from the beginning that the week would be a first-class experience.
“The Mayflower was very nice. It was probably the nicest hotel that I have ever stayed in. It was right on Capitol Hill in downtown D.C.”
Immediately upon arrival, Sheffer had the opportunity to meet with alumni of the youth senators program. These individuals outlined what the week would look like for them and what to take away from the experience. Later that evening, Sheffer also had the opportunity to meet with alumni of the program based on career aspirations.
This experience is something that Sheffer will have the opportunity to partake in every year now as he is now a distinguished alumnus of the program.
“I am now a member of the alumni association which I believe is made up of 6,000 members. I assume that I will now be invited each year to be a participant for the week.”
The final experience for Saturday evening was was each youth senator being placed in groups of eight to ten with their own military mentor. The role of the military mentor was to keep track of their group’s movements, brief the students on their experiences, and provide mentorship for the week. Sheffer’s military mentor was Jordan Iida, a captain within the United States Marine Corps.
Sheffer explained that Iida had an inspiring story which allowed Sheffer to enjoy his leadership even more.
“What was really cool about him was that in 2010 he had a stroke. So he joined the Marine Core afterward because he wanted to show his family and friends that he could overcome that struggle. That was very inspiring for me.”
Each day consisted of a full slate of speakers that addressed the junior senators throughout the day. These speakers included Robert Henry (former chief justice for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit), Susan M. Gordon (Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence), Brian Kamoie (Associat3e Administrator of FEMA), Brian Lamb (Founder and Executive Chairman of C-SPAN), Mike Pompeo (Secretary of State), and Dr. Ben Carson (Secretary of U.S. Housing and Development.
After each speaker gave their remarks, Sheffer and the other students were given the opportunity to ask questions. Sheffer explained that throughout the week he was not allowed to have his phone in part because the speakers wanted to be able to address the students freely without having to be worried about being recorded.
“The speakers were all told that they were not being recorded, that the events were closed to media, which allowed us to ask some really unique questions.”
While Sheffer enjoyed all of the speakers, he especially enjoyed Dr. Carson’s remarks.
“I thought Dr. Carson was wonderful. His best advice to us was to learn how we learn best and told us about his early struggles in medical school. He also reminded us that our fellow Americans who do not agree with us on everything are not our enemies.”
The night before Dr. Carson met with the youth senators, he announced that if Trump is re-elected in 2020, he will not be returning to serve another term as Secretary of H.U.D. Since he had not made himself available to any media outlets following that decision and before his breakfast keynote with the young Senators, Sheffer explained that they were the first to ask him about why he was making the decision to potentially not return.
“He told us that he plans on returning the private sector because it allows him the opportunity to speak more freely about what he believes and he believes that he can have a larger impact in the private sector,” said Sheffer.
“At the conclusion of Dr. Carson’s remarks I just thought, ‘Wow, he was inspiring. I feel so fortunate to be able to hear him speak.”
In addition to the speakers, each day was also filled with tours and access to many areas of D.C. that many tourists in the area only dream of having access. Tours of Mount Vernon, the Newseum, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, the United States Diplomacy Center, the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, the National Archives, the White House, the Capitol, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Pentagon among others were all completed during the week.
Sheffer explained that he was able to visit many of these locations on his freshman class trip to Washington D.C., but never would he have imagined returning some day to experience what he would experience four years later.
The first of those humbling tours would take place at the Supreme Court of the United States with a very special guest. Sheffer explained that he and his fellow senators were lined up outside of the Supreme Court before being escorted into a room within the most historic courthouse in America.
“It was amazing. The artwork that they had at the top of the room portrayed Chief Justice John Marshall as a type of Greek God of justice. Chief Justice John Roberts then walked in and spoke at a podium right in front of us.”
After briefly addressing the students, Chief Justice Roberts then took multiple questions from the students. For Sheffer, there were a couple of comments that he felt worthwhile enough to copy down in his journal.
“One student had asked if he ever looks back on decisions he makes and he said that he doesn’t look back. That he can’t look back.”
Chief Justice also told Sheffer and the other students that he does not view himself in the same way that many others across the country view him.
“I’m not much of a symbol of anything,” proclaimed Roberts. “No decision that I make means anything unless four other Supreme Court Justices agree with me. Some people view me as a type of swing vote within the Supreme Court but that’s not accurate because I can only make a decision if four other justices agree with me.”
While Sheffer especially enjoyed Dr. Carson and Chief Justice Roberts, they both paled in comparison to the opportunity that Sheffer had on Thursday to meet with President Donald Trump in the White House.
“Even though I am a strong supporter of President Trump, I would be just as honored to meet President Obama because of my high respect for the office he held.”
Upon arriving at the White House, all of the young Senators were given the opportunity to self-tour the White House while they waited for their meeting with the President. Sheffer had a specific spot within the East Wing that he targeted for his free time in the President’s home.
“I went to the Presidential Library and I sat down in a chair, because, I figured there is a chair there, why can’t I sit in it? I proceeded to grab a book off of a shelf, read a couple lines, and put it back. I then grabbed another book, read a couple lines, and put it back. I am now able to say that I read books in the White House library.”
“It didn’t look any different than what you see in the pictures, said Sheffer. “It felt like a home. I remember looking out at the very thick windows and seeing parts of the yard that you don’t typically see.”
When it was time to meet the man of the hour, Sheffer explained that they were all lined up outside of the East Room and escorted inside the room to take their place on a set of risers as they waited quietly for their picture with the President.
While it may be difficult to put into words what one is feeling when one meets the President of the United States, Sheffer did his best to sum up his emotions at that moment.
“He walks out after thirty minutes of us just quietly waiting. It was dead silence and all I heard was a collective gasp. Ahead of time, we had decided we were all going to wait until he was in the room to clap but we could not help but to clap and cheer and shout ‘Mr. President!’ Even students who had discussed protesting his entrance to the room were so overcome with emotion that they were cheering alongside his supporters.”
Sheffer said at that moment that there were only a few thoughts running through his mind.
“I love him. I love him. I love this. This is awesome. I can’t believe that I am here.”
“I don’t know if he is a horrible guy,” Sheffer said after the encounter. “He might be. But I love what he is doing on policy. I love the way that he handles thing. I don’t know if he’s a great leader because we hear all sorts of things but last night I saw a picture on Instagram of him with a room full of people with Down Syndrome at the White House. I think he is a real person that speaks his mind. There is something about him that is exciting and that feels real and I experienced that during my time in the East Room with him.”
“I appreciate what that man has done for us. I appreciate what he has done for conservative minded people”
After the applause had subsided, Trump used humor to begin his remarks to the students.
“So I hear you guys are all senators now,” said Trump.
“Everyone in the room was laughing. How could you not? He’s the President.”
Sheffer shared another story about how Trump used humor during his short time with the students.
“He then asked us, ‘So which states have the best Senators?’ He then pointed to different youth senators to ask them what state they were from and who their senators are. He eventually called on a girl from California, and when she answered that Kamala Harris was her Senator. He paused and then eventually said ‘Never heard of her.'”
“Everyone may not have laughed at that one but I thought it was hilarious,” joked Sheffer.
Trump then proceeded to go up into the risers to take a group photo. Sheffer recalls the camera flash going off between three and six times. Trump, however, asked the photographer to return so that the youth senators could get a photo with the President with his trademark thumbs up pose.
Sheffer would go on to experience many more exciting moments during his week, including a private meeting with Senators Toomey and Casey. When it was all said and done, he left the Youth Senate Program with an even deeper love for his country than when we arrived.
“This week really inspired me to serve in the military. It really grew my love for this country, our people in uniform, and for what we stand for as a nation. We are so unique in every way. We are the birthplace of freedom. Every other democracy on the face of the planet owes their origins to us.”
“At the end of the week, I was sitting at dinner with a girl who was very liberal who admitted to me that going into this week that she didn’t have a positive view of our military and that she didn’t particularly like our country. On that final evening in D.C., she told me that for the first time in her life she felt proud to be an American.”
“I got chills when she said that and I just got them again now,” said Sheffer.
Sheffer was able to conclude his remarks by describing the country he loves in a single word.
“Earlier in the week, we were challenged to describe America with one word. For me, that word is freedom. People like to talk about change and improvement within our country but it’s not about any of that. It’s about having the freedom to pursue that change, or it’s the freedom to not pursue that change. It’s the freedom to sit at home on Sundays or the freedom to go to church on Sunday. You can change whatever you want to change. You have the freedom to do that. You can go protest and yell and scream as much as you want. It’s freedom and liberty. Its the freedom to pursue progress as a nation.”
“We are something special,” Sheffer concluded. “I have really realized that after this week.”
Copyright © 2019 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.