Each year the United States Senate Youth Program publishes a yearbook that is a life-long keepsake for all of the Washington Week student delegates. The yearbook is also sent to all Members of the Senate, all of the speakers who graciously gave their time, all state departments of education nationwide that select the students, many other elected and appointed officials and friends and supporters of the program. Filled with photos from the week, the yearbook also contains summaries of the speaking events that capture insight and perspective from our nation’s leaders at this moment in history. Here is the entry devoted to our 2014 Democratic Co-Chair, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, whose opening night dinner included a performance by the fabulous Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.
Down-to-Earth Democratic Co-Chair Upholds Montana’s Public Service Legacy
Senator Jon Tester, a farmer from the state known as ‘Big Sky Country’, spent ample time with the students at Washington Week’s opening dinner enjoying the musical performance and meal with his Montana delegates before addressing the group. The former public school music teacher tipped his hat to the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps at the outset of his remarks, “Doesn’t that make you just feel great to be alive?” he said smiling, his vigor and energy apparent as he launched into a wide ranging and passionate discussion. “You come from every corner of the country, but the common bond that unites you is that each and every one of you has something to offer this great nation,” he began. Exhorting the delegates to never doubt their prospects for success, he humorously gave himself as an example, “I am not exactly your typical Senator,“ he said, jokingly pointing to his non Ivy League college degree, nonexistent law degree, flat-top hairstyle and the loss of three fingers on one hand to a meat grinder. “But I walk in the footsteps of Mike Mansfield, in fact I sit in his seat now – he who led the Senate as Majority Leader for a record 16 years and held the expectation that leadership means being willing to work with those of differing opinions to do what’s right for your country.” Citing his parents’ belief in the public school system and public service as his foundation, he recounted his service on local school boards, agricultural boards and in the state legislature as the backbone of his early career. He defined public education as the cornerstone of our democracy and earned strong applause by insisting that “good teachers need to be paid more.” He took many questions ranging from the effectiveness of charter schools to Medicaid expansion, campaign finance reform and more. “Our country is always changing, as are the people who lead it,” he closed his remarks optimistically, “although we face challenges that have existed for generations, every challenge is an opportunity to shape our future.”