Youth, Senator Go for a JogBy Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 19th, 2011
Some Iowa youths are not old enough to vote for Sen. Charles Grassley. But they sure can run with him.
Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, invited 15 young constituents to join him for his morning exercise, June 15. When they arrived just after 5 a.m., he led them on a spirited run through the Arlington, Va., neighborhood he calls home while Congress is in session.
“Each of them took turns running with me, I enjoyed it,” said Grassley, who covered about three miles with the group.
That was one of the highlights of the 47th annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, which brought a record 1,554 young co-op consumer-members to Washington, D.C., June 11-17.
“You don’t get to run with your legislators every day,” said Dustin Toale, 16, whose trip was sponsored by Urbana-based East Central Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative. “This was a great opportunity.”
Steve Uram, an NRECA grassroots legislative affairs advisor, said the tour is about grassroots constituent contact between young co-op consumer-members and the lawmakers who represent their communities on Capitol Hill.
“This program gets wide support from local co-ops because they are committed to building the next generation of co-op leaders,” he said.
Each state delegation arranged a series of visits with senators, representatives and their staffs. The appointments provided lawmakers with an opportunity to speak to the high school students, many of whom raised questions about issues important in their lives.
“They even wanted to know about public policy issues, so they appear to be well-informed about current events,” said Grassley.
Most of the visits took place in Capitol Hill offices and hearing rooms, but large groups had to improvise due to time and meeting space considerations.
“I’ve got 32 young people from Arizona and two students representing Anza, Calif.-based Anza Electric Cooperative,” said Jim Donahue, director of communications and member services for the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association. “I break them into teams so they can make the rounds in smaller groups.”
The delegation visited the offices of five Arizona lawmakers, said Donahue. “We also paid a visit to the office of California Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack, because she represents consumer-members served by Anza EC.”
The Youth Tour program shows that these young adults have a bright future ahead of them, said Brian Wolfe, a public relations specialist with Fredericksburg, Va.-based Rappahannock Electric Cooperative.
“The students asked questions about Civil War battlefield preservation, energy-efficiency initiatives, space exploration and NASA funding,” said Wolfe. “It amazes me how well-versed on the issues they are and how well they conduct themselves.”
Related content: Youth Tour photo galleries