March 23, 2015

Pass Our Bill

By Eliza Jane Schaeffer

When I was little, I thought that adults were these omnipresent, all-powerful beings of knowledge who never made mistakes. As I grew older, I realized that this is not at all the case. Aging does not spark a dramatic increase in brain capacity or the development of super powers. We’re all only human; bones and organs and thoughts and emotions, all covered with a sheet of skin. And therefore, teenagers are no less capable than adults.

Young people are characterized as bright-eyed, innocent, and overly attached to their cell phones. And to that, I say absolutely. Yes to all three.

Yes, we are bright-eyed. Our eyes are bright with passion, with love for our Commonwealth, and with the determination and vigor characteristic of the young. Our eyes are bright with intelligence and potential.

Yes, we are innocent. Most of what we know about politics came from a textbook. But to be honest, I like the textbook version of democracy better than the wheeling and dealing reality. Perhaps our 18th century idealism will help cut through the cloud of cynicism that seems to pervade modern politics. Because if there is no one left who believes in true democracy as our founding fathers intended it, it will inevitably cease to exist.

And finally, yes, we are positively glued to the shining screens of our cell phones. But that is exactly what makes our generation a generation of changemakers. Social media is incredibly powerful, and over the course of our campaign for House Bill 236, we have used to it to its fullest extent. In the 18th century, it would have taken nearly 2 weeks for Revolutionary War updates to travel from one end of Kentucky to the other. But with modern technology and passionate youth, we have started a revolution of our own in just one week.

1100 people have signed our petition, which we delivered this morning, including people from across this country and across the world.

A quarter of a million people have seen the hashtag “Save Our Bill.” And for that, we can thank all of the dedicated young people standing with us today, who, instead of learning about history in a classroom, are standing on these steps and making history.

Their dedication and passion is proof in itself that there is no magic age where all of a sudden my voice will matter. There is no law of nature that says I cannot make meaningful contributions to society until the second I turn 21. In the past couple of months, the youth of Kentucky have proved several times over that we are not the leaders of the future; we are the leaders of today. And as such, we deserve to play a more substantial role in school governance.

We know the representation of students on superintendent screening committees is an easy measure to involve students. So we say to the Kentucky General Assembly,


We know that students can contribute meaningfully to school governance. So we say to the Kentucky General Assembly,


We know the voices of students are too important to be left out of such an important decision. So we say to the Kentucky General Assembly,


We know student voice is above the political games because student voice is apolitical. So we say to the Kentucky General Assembly,


We know that if we continue to persist and not give up we will get this. So we say to the Kentucky General Assembly,


And we stand with students here today to show the Kentucky General Assembly there is support for House Bill 236. So, if they have not yet heard us, we say to them again,


On behalf of the Student Voice Team, I would like to thank everyone for your incredible and inspiring support!

These remarks were deliverd at the Stand With Students Rally organized by the Student Voice Team on the steps of the capitol in Frankfort on March 23, 2015. The Rally called for the passage of House Bill 236, which would add student voting members to superintendent screening committees.

Eliza Jane Schaeffer

Eliza Jane Schaeffer

Eliza Jane is a Yoda Corps Advisor of KSVT and former member. She was previously the Chair of the School Governance Committee and founding Editor-In-Chief of the Student Voice Forum. Eliza Jane graduated from Henry Clay High School in 2016 and Dartmouth University in 2020.