Getting political at a young age

Ishpeming teen attends national conference

Kelsey Routhier, who will be a senior at Ishpeming High School, speaks at this summer’s YMCA Council Conference on National Affairs. She was part of a Michigan delegation to the event. (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Routhier)

ISHPEMING — Kelsey Routhier has some serious ideas about government.

Routhier who will be a senior at Ishpeming High School, spent part of her summer at the June 27-July 8 YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs, which involved 25 youths from Michigan’s Youth In Government program.

It was a bonding experience.

“We toured (Washington) D.C., and Gettysburg and other places like that a week beforehand to get to know each other as a delegation,” Routhier said.

While at the conference in North Carolina, they participated in government-related proposals that involved 650 youths.

The YMCA Michigan Youth In Government program, according to its website at myig.org, provides high schoolers with opportunities to become acting legislators, lobbyists, lawyers and the press corps.

Students simulate phases and positions of actual state government and deal with many of the issues real legislators face in their elected offices.

While she was with Michigan YIG, she won Best Proposal, which was similar to the one that would be made at CONA. So, she applied and was accepted.

“My proposal was to extend U.S. Code 3509, which is the Child Victims’ and Child Witnesses’ Testimony Rights Act,” Routhier said. “It was to extend it to adults. The act gives minors the ability to testify, not face-to-face, with the person they’re accusing.”

She acknowledged technology changes rapidly, so such communications thus far have been through means such as one-way videos.

The well-spoken 17-year-old is well versed in the history of the act, but she has an interest in current government affairs as well.

“I’ve always really been into changing, like, the world and everything, as cliched as it sounds,” Routhier said. “But I think the world is kind of a darker place right now and we have to be the ones to change it.”

If “kids” are the ones who have to change the world, they include Routhier — a self-proclaimed “kid.”

She plans to attend college and study either political science or criminology.

Violent crime might be in her future as well, although not in the way you might think.

“One of my career goals would be to (work with) the violent crimes sector of the FBI someday,” Routhier said. “That’s pretty far out there.”

Beyond that, being a lawyer or senator could be another career.

Since Routhier keeps up with national events, some headlines bother her more than others.

At the top of her “disturbing list” are President Donald Trump’s “dirty comments” about women, and the fact that some people didn’t write him off after those comments was “eye-opening” for her.

The plethora of sexual misconduct cases in the news also concerns her, particularly that of former Fox political commentator Bill O’Reilly, who was fired from the network in the spring.

It had been discovered that O’Reilly, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid millions of dollars in settlements to multiple women who accused him of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. O’Reilly left Fox News with a payout of millions despite the scandal.

Then there’s Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed and others injured during a white nationalist rally this month.

“It’s just so wild to me that there’s so many people rooted in hate,” Routhier said.

What concerns her on the local front are the big national issues on a smaller scale. She brought one upsetting example: At her school, people have come to the counselor, with whom she works, with cases of sexual assault they haven’t reported.

The police system can be difficult as well, she said.

“When you go through, it’s really hard to get your case to court, and a lot of times you’re treated like the bad guy when you’re the victim,” Routhier said.

The intimacy also can be embarrassing for the victim, and can involve questions about their attire, she said.

“There’s already, I feel, a lot of shame on sexuality in general as a society, so it’s so much worse when you’re the victim of something like that,” Routhier said. “I know a lot of girls who will publish anonymous things online just to be able to get that off their chest.”

The conference helped her a lot when dealing with political issues.

“I wasn’t really sure … how good I was at all this,” Routhier said. “I got to meet a lot of people who were so like-minded.”

And they didn’t all share her views.

“Everyone was there because they wanted to better the country,” Routhier said.

CONA involved proposal-sharing that included feedback from fellow participants. At the end, a general assembly, which included Routhier and other students from Michigan, and a plenary event took place.

People enter politics for a variety of reasons, and it’s her belief they become involved for altruistic reasons.

“I think that most people, at least the majority of people, I feel like do go in it because they want to do good, whatever good is for them; even if, like, what someone thinks is the right thing to do for the country, someone else is always going to think it’s wrong,” Routhier said.

What if people don’t enter politics?

“I think that it’s really important that everyone votes,” Routhier said. “Got to plug that, always.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.