I am always bemused when I take the Intrepid Junior Blogger with me to events. She is deceptive, this one, often quiet around adults she doesn't know, leading them to think she is perhaps shy, but they just haven't cracked the exterior and discovered the talkative (and opinionated) creature within. Last night she and I had the honour of attending the swearing-in ceremony of our newly elected Mayor and council, as we were so kindly invited by our friend Phil Meagher, one of the councillors returning to his seat in the chambers. While my eyes on this sort of political thing may be mildly jaded the eyes of the IJB are fresh and new, and seeing things from her perspective is always very, very interesting.
I think on occasion people doubt me when I say the IJB is into politics. After all, she is a 14-year old girl, so surely she is into music stars and television shows, right? Well, all I can say is that while the IJB hates Justin Bieber she thinks Justin Trudeau is intensely "hot". She often complains about the Harper government (she is no fan of his), and she has even gotten into it a bit on Twitter with a certain local MP when she called him out for poor grammar usage. She follows politics with the same intensity other kids might follow music stars and movies, and while her interests are diverse, ranging from K-Pop (which is Korean pop music if you are wondering) to video games, the world of politics is one of her true passions. Just yesterday she proudly informed me that she has been appointed Prime Minister of student council, and so she will end out her final year in junior high in charge of council, just as she has planned all along (and like politicians she has strategies, as last week she was busily compiling a list of what she would do as prime minister, and what strengths she brings to the job, like the "ability to build strong relationships between the educational staff and student body" - what can I say, she is my kid through and through). Last night was perfect timing, then, for us to find ourselves in the audience for the swearing in, and to watch the political show begin.
The program started with a performance from the Holy Trinity choir, one that made my heart sing as they are such a blend of this community, covering all our cultural diversity and the power of our youth in one fell swoop. They delivered a lovely song, and then it was on to the ceremony itself, with MC Tyler King of Rock 97.9/Country 93.3 (who did a terrific job, too, although the IJB kept commenting that he reminded her of a Simpsons character, and planned to rush home to watch Youtube to figure out which one).
The ceremony itself was quite short, with each councillor and the mayor being sworn in by a judge, swearing to uphold the oath of office and to serve this region in an ethical manner, and with integrity. The IJB, who is so observant, caught so many details I missed, and afterwards I was dumbfounded when she listed who did and did not swear the oath while holding the Bible (a nuance I totally missed).
After all the newly elected officials were sworn in they each had the opportunity to address the audience briefly. This is where the IJB truly got engaged, leaning forward to catch every word. She was quietly typing notes to me the entire time, showing me her iPhone screen to share her thoughts. "he is sweet but I worry he will get eaten alive", she would type, or "this one is very clever", quietly logging her thoughts on each person as they spoke. She tried to determine who was the most "sassy", deeming Sheldon Germain to be quite saucy (in a good way), with Phil Meagher a close second. She smiled when Tyran Ault and Keith McGrath both teared up a bit as they spoke. She made small comments on every single speech, even on those newly elected councillors she has never met, and each one made me smile because her thoughts were fresh and genuine, and although I may be biased, quite astute.
After the ceremony I wanted to leave, ready to go home after a long day, but she is the one who insisted we stay, as she wanted some of the food (she is a big fan of the food at MacDonald Island Park, just as I am), and she wanted to congratulate the councillors. And so we did, she having a chat with a few them, including quite a lengthy exchange with Guy Boutilier, who she last met when her Grade Six class visited the Alberta Legislature and he was still an MLA. He told her that his start had been on student council, too, and I could see the tiny gleam in her eye because some day this young woman will no doubt be giving politicians like Guy a run for their money on election day,
Finally she agreed to leave (and when Al Vinni told her that she should tell her mother to quit dragging her to things like this she laughed and said to me "how funny is that, he thinks you drag me when I am the one who wanted to stay"). In the car on the way home we talked a lot about the new council, the dynamics, the future, and the value of councils where there is some degree of conflict, as through conflict we often find the correct path. We talked about our hopes that the new council, despite coming to the chamber with differing views, would find a way to work together, and find ways to resolve their conflicts with solutions that may not be exactly what they want as individuals but a compromise that benefits everyone. We talked about how we hoped they would not get so bogged down and entrenched in conflict that progress in our community stalled, and we talked about how each and every one was likely about to find their lives changed, as while running for office is one thing serving in office is another thing entirely, with new challenges and new experiences. And we talked about two of the comments that struck us both last night, and that we thought were very interesting. One was when Sheldon Germain commented about his long service in elected office, and how when he was elected he did not know how much he did not know, and we both thought the truth and honesty and humble reality in that statement was striking. The other comment was when one of them (and to be honest I don't recall who, either Phil or Sheldon), looked at the newly seated councillors and said they were not the "dream team", a reference to the council elected in 2010 and that was widely referred to in that way. The IJB and I discussed how perhaps that was a good thing, because dreams, while lovely and wonderful, are elusive things, far too often shattered and far too easily lost along the way, too much fantasy and too little reality. Perhaps, we concluded, we need a "truth team". one that may occasionally encounter conflict and have to struggle to find resolution and achieve the goals we have set out for our elected officials.
Last night the IJB crawled into bed with the program from the swearing-in. She told me she just wanted to look at it and review the names again, and think about each of them and how they would work together. And I suppose that is when I realized that it isn't just media and political junkies and voters who would be watching this mayor and council for the next four years. It will be young women (and men) like the IJB, who will be remembering last night and quietly making notes in their heads as we move into the future. The performances, and personalities, will be quietly observed by young people like my daughter, young adults who are both the future of this community, and of this world. The decisions made in the next four years, and the actions of our new mayor and council, will have both a direct impact on my daughter's life, and an indirect one as they will help to shape how she sees the world of politics. There is a heavy weight on the shoulders of the newly elected officials, and it is far more than perhaps they even realize. Each and every one of them is being watched, and notes are being quietly made, not just by adults but by the young adults who will one day be the ones leading this world. Their example of leadership, however they choose to exercise it, will influence the leaders of tomorrow. I have great hopes, though, and great faith as I believe every person sworn-in last night shares a love for this community, and a desire to make it a better place, and while they may have differing opinions on the route the destination is the same. I believe that if this is their guiding principle then they will be the kind of role models my daughter will be proud to emulate one day.
This morning when I went into the IJB's bedroom I found the program from last night on the floor beside her bed. I didn't ask her what her final conclusions or thoughts were, as those are hers and hers alone. What I do know, though, is that she will be watching the next four years with young, fresh eyes, and she is quietly observing what many of us won't even notice. She will be seeing the future - her future - take shape in front of her. I am almost envious, as I wish I could see it through her eyes. All I know is how privileged I am to be witness to it at all, and how much I hope that what she sees encourages her in her own path in life. I would suggest that the next four years may see a young woman in the back of council chambers on council meeting nights, one with hair that will likely be every colour of the rainbow during that time, and that she will be quietly making notes just as she did last night. And quite frankly I can't wait to read them.