PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Lynn District Fire Chief Stephen Archer talks with student Gabby Graham.
If it’s spring it must be Student Government Day, with bright-eyed young men and women from Lynn high schools filling the City Council Chamber on Tuesday to hear speeches about how they can make a difference in the world.
Student Government Day serves the admirable dual purpose of highlighting young people who want to aim high with their aspirations and celebrating the best and most noble aspects of city government.
City department heads, City Councilors and school officials step back from their jobs for a few hours and pair up with student councilors, student fire chiefs, a student mayor, and a student school superintendent.
Student Government Day is partly an opportunity to reward some of the city’s best students with a glimpse at careers in government. It is also an opportunity for public service employees to provide insights into how government at the local level works.
There is value in giving young people an understanding of why a career in public service is a goal worth pursuing. People who work in government are consistent targets for critics who claim public servants are underworked, overpaid, and less than honest. These attacks have probably been around for as long as human beings have organized governments.
The people who start Student Government Day off by talking about their jobs are, in many cases, familiar to the students sitting in the Council Chamber and listening. They are neighbors, parents of friends, couches and scouting leaders.
Some of them are city leaders only slightly older than the students. State Reps. Brendan Crighton and Dan Cahill have stood in the Council Chamber and told students about how they pursued public careers to make a difference and improve life for their neighbors.
Part of Student Government Day is dedicated to giving student councilors the opportunity to debate topics they consider important to their peers. In past years these debates centered around school topics such as giving students more latitude in leaving school grounds. Sometimes the debates center on topics that hit close to home for young people, including violence and addiction.
The mock debates are typically five minute-long exchanges bearing no resemblance to the Lincoln-Douglas debates. But they may provide a student interested in civic life with an opportunity to speak out loud about a topic of interest in a place where important city business is debated and decided.
The greatest part of Student Government Day is the way, if only for a day, optimism in government replaces cynicism and people who only see possibility and potential stand at center stage and talk about the future.