The world is ours

Ryann Redinger, Engagements Editor

Senior Ryann Redinger got the chance to see governor Laura Kelly and take a picture with her after the event.

I was one of the youngest people in the room. I felt nervous and inexperienced, like I didn’t belong there. It is a common stereotype that young people are not involved in the political process. We are known for not reading the news, not voting in elections, and overall we are thought to be politically uninformed as a whole. So as a young person standing in a room of people mostly above the age of 40 who all took time to be at a public forum, I felt like maybe I didn’t know enough about politics to be there.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, accompanied by representatives Henry Helgerson and Elizabeth Bishop, came to a public forum at the Alvin E. Morris Administration Center on Tuesday April 9. I went to this event with my journalism advisor to report on the happenings of our state government, but also I went because I am personally interested in what our new governor, Laura Kelly, was planning on working on in our state.

The public forum was set up so the questions were written by those attending the event. My advisor and me thought of a question to ask, but I didn’t really think they would choose it anyways.

After what felt like forever, everyone in the room rose to their feet in applause as a woman in a bright pink jacket walked into the room waving. She had a sense of confidence and finesse in the way she walked to her seat. I knew that this was our governor Laura Kelly.  

The first question was asked about how Kelly recently signed a bill to increase public education funding on Saturday April 6 which she said would increase the budget by 90 million dollars.

“I can assure you that as governor I will never present a budget to the legislature that doesn’t respond to our commitment to fund schools,” Kelly said.

Kelly, Helgerson and Bishop commented on issues such as the mental health emergency in Kansas. Bishop added that while it’s a large issue throughout the state, it greatly impacts the Wichita area. She said that they have noticed a system of people going to the emergency room to be transported to a distant mental health care center for a short amount of time to return and then the cycle starts all over.

“We spend a lot of money, staff time and patient time going to and from a distant hospital. We need a regional system for [mental health care] in this area,” Bishop said followed with a crowd applause.

The topic of renewable energy was also brought up for discussion. After responding to the question, Kelly concluded with a statement alluding to the current president and his thoughts on windmills.

“And before I hand this off the [Helgerson], I want you to know I do not think windmills cause cancer,” Kelly said as the room exploded into laughter and applause.

I was beginning to get disappointed as the end of the forum neared because my question hadn’t gotten asked. There were a lot of questions for the moderator to organize, so I understood why there just wouldn’t be time. After questions about foster care, gun control and healthcare, the moderator announced it was time for the final question.

“In your opinion, why do you think young people often are not involved with the political process, and what do you believe we can do to fix that?” the moderator Suzanne Tobias said.

My heart started racing. That was my question, and it was being asked as the closing question. Sounds really strange, but I was so excited.

“All you have to do is look at the social media or look at the newspaper or look at the news station or the radio, and you can see what a few people banning together can change in society, our city and where we are heading,” Representative Henry Helgerson said. “And that’s the message we need to relay to our young people, and remind them that the world is yours. Step up and take it. You can run with it or you can sit back and do nothing, but quite often when you run with it, it becomes yours and then the world becomes a better place for everyone.”

The governor shared a story of how women were not typically accepted into major colleges where she lived in Virginia, and that’s how she was inspired to get involved in politic while growing up.

“William Merriam rejected me. They took the guy whose English papers I fixed during study hall,” Kelly joked.

“I actually saw on the campaign trail a really engaged group of young people,” Kelly said. “They were marching for their lives, they were marching against guns, they were doing all sort of things. Think about how many ran for governor. So I think they are there, but I think it’s the kind of thing that can come and go. I think we need to make sure we recognize, appreciate and support their efforts.”

Hearing this was inspiring, not only because she is a woman who has made it as a state politician, but also she isn’t blaming young people for not being involved but is instead calling on older generations to accept young people becoming involved in the political process.

After the forum ended, I was lucky enough to get to shake Kelly’s hand and get a picture with her, but the biggest take away I got from going was that it’s very possible for young people to become more involved and the older generations are encouraging it. As young people, we cannot let older people make us feel we do not deserve to voice our opinions.

It’s our world too. Let’s step up and take it.