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A Day at the State House
DJ Beauregard

On Wednesday, January 25, 2006, state Senator Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen) welcomed about 20 local area high schoolers to the first meeting of his Student Advisory Committee at the Mass-achusetts State House in Boston.

The Student Advisory Committee is a group of high school students who meet frequently and discuss and debate the important issues facing our state.

Members of the Committee were nominated by their school’s Student Council.  At Methuen High School, my best friend Rosemarie, and our friend from school Mary, were nominated to attend.  Since I had previously discussed attending the event with Senator Baddour, I was added to the Methuen list.  We went with the Student Council advisor, Mr. Peirce.

We all woke up early in the morning to catch the 7:30 a.m. train from Bradford to Boston.  We were greeted by an MBTA official who guaranteed us a spot on the train.  They were expecting approximately 20 students, but we were the only ones who showed up.  We had a great time on the train.  Mr. Peirce, who had gotten only three hours of sleep the night before, decided to take a nap.  We had a lot of fun taking pictures of him sleeping.

About an hour later, we arrived at North Station in Boston.  We then boarded the subway and rode it to Park Street, the subway stop closest to the State House.  After departing the subway car, we walked a short distance to the front gates of the State House.  I had Rosemarie take a picture of me standing in front of the building.  At this point, I was already self-assured that we were in for an exciting day.

After being checked by security officials upon entering the State House, we made our way to the Senate Reading Room, where we were all supposed to meet with the other students at 9:15.

As usual, several groups were late.  To pass the time, we filled out “Icebreaker” sheets to be used in a fun game at a later time in the day.

After everyone had arrived, we all assembled on the grand staircase to take a picture with Senator Baddour and state Treasurer Tim Cahill.  When that was done, we all re-assembled in the Senate Reading Room. 

The first speaker of the day was Treasurer Cahill.  He talked about what he did as state Treasurer.  He mentioned several current issues that his office is dealing with, including the re-building of Methuen High School. 

After Cahill finished talking, we had the pleasure of hearing from Senate President Bob Travaglini.  He talked about what Senators do, and how he opposes gay marriage.  He also mentioned that he supports stem cell research, and hopes that Massachusetts will be the first state in the union to discover a cure for cancer by using these stem cells.

Senate President Pro Tempore Stan Rosenberg was up next.  He talked about issues such as education, and the proposal to give in-state tuition for illegal aliens.  I was unable to sit silently, so I raised my hand after he finished talking about the tuition issue.  I asked why these illegal aliens are being put before regular citizens when it comes to education, and he replied by saying that there are only 200 illegal immigrants, or “undocumented citizens,” as he called them.  I wasn’t exactly satisfied, but I decided to leave him alone on the issue for the rest of the day.

Following Rosenberg’s speech to the group, we headed into the Senate chamber.  We got to witness the state Senate in session.  It was a very interesting experience.  Soon after we walked into the chamber, Senator Baddour mentioned to Senator Rosenberg, “We only have two Republicans in this group,” (referring to Rosemarie and me).  I was amazed that we were the only two Republicans in the entire group.

After the Senate session adjourned, we got to hear from the vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Steve Pangiotakos (D-Lowell).  He discussed the issue of higher education, just as Senator Rosenberg had done a short time before.

After Senator Pangiotakos was finished, we heard from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Therese Murray.  She mentioned how she was only one of six women serving in the forty-person state Senate body.  She talked about how women are a minority in the world of politics, and how she has had an opponent every time she has run, and interestingly, they were all men.

I was very interested in the next part.  William Welch, the clerk of the Senate, showed us a Massachusetts Senate guestbook that contained the signatures of all of the Senate’s guests.  Among the signatures was the signature of Jimmy Carter, who was at the time the former governor of Georgia.  The guests signed their name and title.  It was funny how Jimmy Carter signed his name, and instead of writing “Former Georgia Governor,” he wrote “Next president.” He must have been one confident man. That confidence paid off when he was elected the thirty-ninth President of the United States in the 1976 election, defeating then President Gerald Ford.

The next item on our agenda was to have a bite to eat in the Senate Reading Room.  Senator Baddour’s staff had ordered us all pizza, which was delicious.  I decided to step away from the group and make a quick phone call.

I turned on my cell phone, and searched for the person who I wanted to call.  It’s not surprising to many that the person was former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.  I found his number, and pressed “send.”  When he answered, I said, “Governor…you’ll never believe where I am!”  He asked, “Where?”  I replied, “The Senate Reading Room at the State House.”  He replied, “For God’s sake…are you playing hooky?”  I said that I was on a school field trip.  Senator Baddour was standing nearby and asked if he could talk.  I gave the phone to him, and the rest is history.

After lunch, we embarked on a brief tour of the State House. We were all accompanied by Shawn Boburg, a reporter for the Eagle~Tribune. While we were walking around, he was asking her some great questions, and she was giving some amazing answers.  She gave some great answers that a typical 17 year-old high school girl would never give…

When we got back to the Reading Room, Senate Majority Whip Robert Havern (D-Arlington) talked to us about his job as a senator, and about some of the issues that are facing Massachusetts.

When he was done speaking, we heard from Ron Bersani (my favorite speaker of the day). Bersani is the grandfather of Melanie Powell, the 13-year-old girl who was murdered by a drunken driver.  He told us her story, and mentioned how she wanted to be a guardian angel when she grew up. 

It was a truly heartwarming story, until he discussed her death and the events that followed.  He told us how she attended her friend’s birthday party, and on the way back to her house, a woman who had been drinking struck her down with her vehicle. 

This woman was clearly intoxicated, and the event eventually sparked the creation of Melanie’s Law.  The sad thing about it all was that the drunken woman was a repeat drunk driving offender.

The final speaker of the day was state Transportation Secretary John Cogliano.  He mentioned the projects that he has been working on with the state Legislature, including the placement of guardrails on Route 213 in Methuen.

All in all, we had a great time.  The fun is not over yet…that was only the first meeting!  Rosemarie, Mary, and I are truly looking forward to seeing what happens at the next several meetings.

Until next time…

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The February, 2006 Edition of the Valley Patriot
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