Originally created 11/23/04

Youth forum is eye-opening look at government



As I slowly walked into the evening social in my sweat suit, my faculty adviser looked at me and commented with a smile, "My DCI (director of central intelligence) looks tired tonight."

It was only 8:30, and I was usually up until midnight.

Why was I so run down? I had just finished an intense, three-hour government simulation. I was running on pure adrenaline, trying to coordinate between two branches of government and two executive departments. I wasn't tired - I was exhausted.

When I was nominated for the National Youth Leadership Forum, a weeklong seminar that offers an in-depth look at the workings of the government to students from across the country, I was eager for the experience.

I'd get to take my interest in government to a new level. Still, I was apprehensive, not only about missing so much school but also about attending a conference with 400 "genius" overachievers.

Arriving in Washington, D.C., for the forum on Defense, Intelligence and Diplomacy, I expected five days of nonstop discussions and demonstrations. But instead of lecture after lecture or taking notes, most of the week was spent interacting with other teens from around the country

Not only did I get to meet some leading members of government but I also heard how they did their jobs.

I learned how the government theoretically works. Yet, it didn't really stick until the day of the frantic three-hour simulation, where I was given the role of director of central intelligence. Having to inform all the members of government of what was happening in our fictitious world of 2008 truly showed me what it takes to be a leader in government.

There might be no definitive skill set that government employees must have, after simulating the response to a possible nuclear attack, I'm certain a strong supply of caffeine and the ability to react under pressure top the list.

Understanding government makes it more difficult to criticize the decisions of those who make it run. I've always been interested in how things work, and this trip cemented my desires to go into some type of government service. I learned and saw more things in a week than I ever did in civics class.

Once I was on my way back home, back to the "real world" of being a teenager, I had a better feel for the conflicts between different government branches and the incredible daily stresses that are placed upon government employees. I'm thankful we have such capable people on the job. We all should be.

Chris Baugh, 15, is a junior at Evans High School.