Mississippi Court of Appeals Justice Virginia Carlton urged delegates to the 64th annual American Legion Auxiliary Girls State, held this week on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus, to embrace their goals and let nothing stand in their way to achieve them.
“You can develop into anything you want,” said Carlton to the participants during a speech prior to swearing in the Girls State officers. A Columbia, Miss. native and former Girls State delegate, Carlton has also served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army in various capacities, including as a military judge.
Carlton asked the approximately 250 delegates, who came from all over the state to learn about how representative democracy works at the local and state levels, to consider a career in public service.
“We are a country of great talent and aspiration, and you are our future,” said Carlton. “And what you invest in it (America) is what it will be.
“Our Founding Fathers gave us a land of opportunity, and we don’t need to waste our opportunities.”
To seize those opportunities, Carlton advised the delegates to equip themselves with the tools to do so, including an education. But above all, work hard and remain committed, she said.
“There will occasionally be a rock or a stumble blocking your path, and you’ll experience ups and downs, but always persevere,” she said. “Roll up your sleeves. Things don’t always fall in your lap.”
The participants, who are rising high school seniors from across the state, have engaged in a week of programming simulating local and state political processes in the fictitious state of ‘Magnolia.” The programs include formation of city and county governments, campaigns, elections, mock trial courts and development of legislation in the fictitious state of “Magnolia.”
After her address, Carlton swore in the eight delegates elected to statewide office, including Kaylen Estes of Crystal Springs, Commissioner of Agriculture; Laura Speights of Wesson, State Auditor; Elise Seale of Hattiesburg, Secretary of State; Mary Landrum Pyron of Crystal Springs, Governor; Joy Waller of Jackson, Lieutenant Governor; Harley Felsher of Hattiesburg; State Treasurer; Meredith Moody of Lucedale, Attorney General; and Elizabeth Mapp of Hattiesburg, Commissioner of Insurance.
“I’m honored to have been chosen governor by my fellow delegates,” Pyron said. “Being a part of Girls State has been a great experience.”
Asked if being chosen governor inspires her to pursue a career in politics, Pyron said it was one she would consider. “I know the Lord has big plans for me,” she said.