attitude and spirit displayed by the delegates at the 57th annual
American Legion Girls State is just the tonic needed to revive public
interest in the nation's political process.
That was the
message delivered Wednesday by Mississippi Secretary of State Eric
Clark to approximately 300 young women, all rising high school seniors,
who are on The University of Southern Mississippi campus this week
experiencing the inner workings of politics on the state and local
levels by participating in mock political conventions, elections,
trials and city projects in the fictitious state of "Magnolia."
in Europe voter turnout is often above 80 percent, Clark said the
American public had, by contrast, failed in their civic duty. "We
think we're doing good when we have a 50 percent turnout (for an
election)," he said. "That's disgraceful, shameful.
privileged to live in a country where we get to choose our own leaders,"
he said. "In some countries, that's just not so."
his friend, state Rep. Percy Watson of Hattiesburg, who he said
likes to say that if a person is not part of a solution, they're
part of the problem. "It's clear that you're part of the solution,
not part of the problem," he said to the delegates.
the fact that you're here, you obviously care about our government
and care about making things better."
A native of
Taylorsville, Clark previously served four terms in the Mississippi
House of Representatives before being elected secretary of state
in 1995. Last fall he won his third term to that office.
many of the delegates have not yet reached the legal voting age
of 18, Clark still urged them to get involved in politics now. He
challenged them to volunteer for a candidate whom they support,
and then register to vote when they turn 18.
in politics now, but hearing him (Clark) made me want to get more
involved to help Mississippi," said Girls State delegate Erin
Sanford of Pascagoula. "I definitely want to run for office