Pursuing the World of Politics

Would you like to run the government for the weekend? We did.

ICC took nine students to the state capitol to Model Illinois Government competing as members of the State’s Congress.

The simulation weekend was one of the best and most exciting experiences in my life! I gained so much knowledge; I was like a sponge, soaking up everything I could. It’s one thing to study politics and how the government operates, but it is very different to experience the inner workings of the government up close and personal.

The State Congressional Hall in Springfield, photo by Cheryl Harvey

I’ve always been impacted by politics. By junior high, I decided that I wanted to pursue politics as my career. Lately, however, I’ve been really disheartened with everything the news has portrayed in the media.

The impression I get from the media is that many people are stuck in their ways, reluctant to change. I also will hear citizens talking about how they want to see change, but do little or nothing to cause that change to happen.

As I look towards the future, I question if I can really be the instigator of change. I think to myself, “Can my one voice really have a positive impact on the world?” MIG showed me that every voice does matter.

It only takes one person to speak up to initiate change.

Another aspect of MIG that really stood out to me was something completely different than what we often see portrayed in the media.

Contrary to popular belief, Democrats and Republicans are not mortal enemies. They can actually get along and even be friends with each other.

In our committee actions and on the House and Senate floors we debated and disagreed on topics, however, I found it quite refreshing to see the student delegates set aside their party colors and enjoy getting to meet new people enjoying their time with one another.

What was even more exciting to experience was that it wasn’t just during the socials that the party colors were set aside. Today’s media emphasizes the polarity of our politics.

Understandably, I was shocked that any bipartisanship occurred, but also by how often it did! Seeing our generation’s willingness to cross party lines, gives me hope for the future.

By debating bills and hearing other viewpoints, I learned that it’s not always about proving that your ideologies are right. It’s also about finding that common ground so that you can reach across the aisle.

When it comes to policies, there will always be more than one way to go about solving an issue. We need to have the humility to not only acknowledge this but to take the strides necessary to come up with solutions that have something to offer for everyone. Many of the delegates at MIG were pursuing degrees in other fields which were not directly related to the realm of government at all.

“In order to find these solutions, we need to have diversity amongst our leaders. Not only ethnically, but also in background and field of interest.”

While I was there, I met students studying music, English, engineering, and much more. Diversity is arguably needed most in politics more than any other field. The opinions of these non-political science majors, relating to bills that would be directly affecting their field and careers, was invaluable to hear. 

3 delegates speak each other during Model Illinois Government, photo by Cheryl Harvey

This led me to ask, “If we only have politicians that are political scientists and lawyers, how can we effectively make legislation on something we know little to nothing about?” Ideas can look great on paper, but when they are put into practice, the results are not always as hoped.

“Running the government” for a weekend has given me a deeper insight into how our government works. I’m taken aback by the absolute brilliance of its design. Now that I’ve walked in our representatives’ shoes for a weekend, I have such fervent respect for our politicians and what they do. 

Before MIG weekend, I was very concerned for the future of politics. From what I observed, I am no longer in dismay. Instead, I am very excited for what the future holds.

If there is one thing Model Illinois Government taught and solidified for me, it’s that the political arena is indeed where I want to be someday. I eagerly await the day when the torches are passed from their generation to ours, in hopes to someday carry one of those torches.

Cheryl Harvey stands outside of City Hall in Downtown Peoria, photo by Wes Brooks