I really do not like the cliche’ “don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.” It’s so overused – right along with “put your money where your mouth is,” but last week I decided I needed to heed the messages of both expressions. After venting my frustrations – in rather dramatic fashion – about the conditions in our school district and state legislature, I decided I better join other educators and citizens up on Capitol Hill to voice my support for some bills that could help Jordan School District.
There is something intimidating about walking into buildings of Classicism design because they emanate an air of importance. Add the fervor of a legislative session, and visitors cannot help but inhale the tense atmosphere of decisions in the making. I didn’t expect to feel exhilaration in the face of my frustrations, but there it was: press conferences, interviews, special interest groups, pages, signs, TV reporters and cameras. The sounds of footsteps running across marble floors or climbing up marble steps echoed throughout the rotunda. A mariachi band entertained citizens, lobbyists, legislators, and school children.
Men, women, and children lined the hallways outside the House of Representatives and the Senate Chambers, and they wrote messages to their legislators, urging them to vote for or against this bill or that resolution. It was inspiring to see so many involved. I attended the press conference organized by Utah Education Association to urge passage of House Bill 295 that would ease the financial burdens of struggling school districts like Jordan and Grand by allowing building funds to be used for classroom needs. Next, I spoke to teachers, parents, and education leaders to see what I could do to help. Finally, I added to the stacks of messages being sent to legislators to plead for their help in passing legislation that supports our students’ education. It was a GREAT feeling.
Here a just a few pictures I snapped of democracy in action:
This South Jordan mom joined educators and other JSD patrons to speak out for our children’s educational future. Even HER mother came along to show support for HB 295 that would ease financial pressures, thus forcing a move towards increased class sizes.
These mothers whose children attend schools in Jordan School District are writing memos to their legislators, expressing their concerns and their demands that students come first. TV reporters interviewed the young woman on the far left. I wonder where that footage went. I didn’t see it on any of the channels.
Looking down from the House of Representative mezzanine, I saw Hispanic leaders addressing their constituents. Now, this community knows how to make an impression. Not only did they lay out a catered feast of Latin American favorites, they entertained onlookers with a festive musical program featuring an excellent mariachi band. Instead of feelings of frustration, this group filled the air with positive vibes!
On Thursday, the day after my TRIP to the HILL, I thought all efforts had been in vain as I heard that HB 295 and failed to pass, BUT on Friday, law-makers added an amendment to the bill that enabled its passage in the House. Now it goes the Senate, and “insiders” are optimistic about its success there.
Now I’m not an “insider” and many of the citizens who travel to the Capitol are not big time politicians either, but I feel that our voices did count. I recently learned that the state capitol is also called “The People’s House,” and last Wednesday, I witnessed why that title is so befitting. The experience did more to erase my frustrations than my whining ever did. And as I left, I paused in front of former Governor Olene Walker’s portrait because she was such an advocate of literacy and education. In fact, the painting of her shows that she’s reading A is for Arches – an ABC book about Utah, written by Katherine Larsen
As I looked at Olene’s portrait, I not only reflected upon the events of the day, I thought about all the women I saw there and the evidence of women’s political contributions to the betterment of our state. I’m grateful to them all! Perhaps we should add another nickname to that stately structure on the hill: The Women’s House.