By Grace Sullivan ’17
At the Governor’s Conference last June, I met inspiration from all angles: my fellow governors, incredible speakers, and the dedicated staff of the YMCA. I had a unique window into the ways in which this program affects people across the country. Each governor I met had a story and each story was different. Yet from Delaware to California, we all shared a common sense of gratitude for the program that has so dramatically shaped our lives.
“Don’t worry about who you will be. Worry about what you can do.” Of all the advice I received at the conference, these words meant the most to me. As I sat on the National Mall with my new friends from across the country, these words summarized for me the most important lesson I have learned from Youth and Government.
Undeniably, Youth and Government has been the greatest gift I have ever received. But the me that sat on the National Mall last June is very different from the me that entered the State House her freshman year. At that time, I was concerned with who I would be. I was eager to become a delegate because I believed that once I put on my suit, once I sat in the state house chairs, I was a leader. I was soon proven incorrect, however, as I watched Marylanders far more talented than me do good without glory.
With inspiration from true leaders like Gideon Epstein and Helena Baffoe-Bonnie, I learned my lesson. Leaders are defined by their actions, not their titles. As I learned at the Governor’s Conference, this is a rather liberating thought. It means that a nervous freshman delegate has the same capacity to do meaningful work as a veteran officer. It means that you need not focus on which profession you wish to fill as long as you consider the ways in which you hope to shape the world. It means that leadership is in your hands.
This ideology fuels my vision for my term as governor. Personally, I realize that I will only be governor for one short year. However, I also know that the actions I take as governor can affect the future of this program for far longer. Much more importantly, I hope that all delegates can take this message and use it to make the most of the time they are given in the program. Let this be a year where everyone seizes the chance to act as a leader in their own capacity.
My hope is that every last delegate, lobbyist, press member, and court participant will feel involved in the year ahead. After all, that is what democracy is about. I realize that my role as governor puts me at the bottom of an upside down pyramid. Therefore, the way to build this program for the future is to recognize the leadership potential in every single member. I want to hear your ideas, see your development, and feel the ripples you create by rising up as a self-made leader.
Something else I hope to see as we move forward was captured by another Y&G event I attended over the summer. As governor, I had the chance to welcome a delegation of students from Kentucky on a Y Corps trip to do service across the East. They had come to Baltimore to serve our community with hard work, but they could not have been more joyful. Because of the friendships they made on their journey, they acted with the unity and effectiveness of a family. I hope to see similar community dynamics throughout Maryland Y&G as well.
Overall, my goal for next year is for every member of our program to embrace their potential while feeling embraced by their community. The pathway to achieving this will involve hard work from all of us, but I know we are up to the task. Let us make this a year to remember!