“I’m so happy Representative Gumpster asked you two to be his pages,” Mom commented as our family traveled down the highway.
“He said that since Chloe and I were excited about the animal shelter bill, the three of us would make a great team! I think he also chose us because we look really good in our official Kentucky blazer.”
That comment made Mom and Dad smile. “We’re proud of you both,” Dad commented.
“Thanks - and we’re making money. Soon I’ll have enough to buy Chloe and me our roller skates! And guess what else!”
“I’m almost afraid to, Woody,” Dad said, smiling.
“I may run for public office, even though we would have to move to a new town,” I said, sad about the possibility of moving.
“Why would we have to move?” Dad asked, glancing to the backseat.
“Because we don’t live in a town that starts with a D or an R,” I answered, surprised Dad didn’t already know that.
“We elect 100 representatives and 38 senators to our state legislature. Do you think they all come from Danville or Reidland?” Dad countered. Before I could even speak, Chloe asked a question.
“Why do they only chose 100 representatives when our state has 120 counties?”
“Good question, Chloe. Just like the United States has a constitution, each state has a constitution. Our Kentucky constitution requires our state to be divided up into 38 Senate districts and 100 House districts. It’s based on population, or how many people live in a certain region. And remember, we don’t have to know the ‘why’ behind everything. We just have to learn what we can and follow the rules.”
“So the D and the R don’t stand for cities?” I asked.
“No, son, they stand for the two major parties.”
Parties? Our job was getting better all the time!
“I wonder if they were supposed to be surprise parties! We better not let the cat out of the bag, Chloe!” I said, already looking forward to the big event. I hoped we had punch and cookies and games!
“Hold it, Party Animal! When I say ‘two major parties,’ I’m talking about the two major political parties,” Dad said, stretching out the word political. “As in Democrat and Republican.”
“So that’s why they have a D or an R on the nametag,” I announced.
“We can’t get anything past you, Einstein,” Dad said, winking at me, letting me know he was teasing. “Yes, the D stands for Democrat and the R stands for Republican. Political parties are groups of people who agree on issues.”
“What’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans?” I asked.
“Well” Dad spoke, “basically, Democrats are known to be more liberal in thinking. They believe government should step in to solve problems. Republicans, on the other hand, are known to be conservatives. They want a limited government. They believe in taking more of a personal responsibility and looking at individuals to solve problems. Sometimes you’ll hear the Democratic party referred to as the left and the Republican party referred to as the right.”
“Are we Republican or Democrat?” I asked.
“That’s something you’ll have to decide yourself,” Dad answered. “Maybe you’ll be a Democrat, maybe you’ll be a Republican, or maybe you’ll be an Independent.”
“Or maybe you’ll be a Blue Dog,” Mom interjected.
“A what?” Chloe and I both repeated
“A Blue Dog,” Mom repeated. “It’s a name given to a group of Democrats who are conservative in thinking, more like Republicans. You don’t need to worry about all of that now, son. You just need to be thankful we live in a country that allows democracy – a place where the citizen’s opinions matter. And you need to stay informed about the politicians and the issues so you can vote wisely. And whatever you do, don’t become apathetic.”
“Apa what?” I asked.
“Apathetic,” Mom repeated. “By that, I mean don’t ever get to the place that you don’t care about what’s going on in our country. Unfortunately, too many people complain about our state or country, but they never get involved.”
“You mean like being a page?” Chloe asked.
“You don’t have to work at the State Capitol to be involved,” Dad answered. “You can be involved by keeping up with the news, reading the newspaper, and listening to politicians give speeches. The most important part is that you are educated about the process and the politicians. Remember when you learned about President Abe Lincoln and his famous speech the Gettysburg Address? He said ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people…’ Remember, pups, we are the people!”
Dad was right, we are the people! I pondered that thought for a few minutes before something hit me. “Uh, Mom, Dad? Where exactly are we going anyway?”
“Well, Woody,” Dad replied. “It’s funny you should ask.”