Videos & Speeches

Mr. President, I rise this evening in support of more than 1,700 high school students who happen to be in our nation's capital, in fact, this week. They are part of the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. During this year's tour, students will participate in leadership training and gain firsthand insight into the legislative process.

The electric cooperatives that sponsor these kids coming to Washington, DC, from my state, yours, and every other state across the country, are more than just poles and wires. They are about people and communities. Recognizing that youth are the future of those communities is what the Rural Electric Cooperative Program is all about--sending 51 students to Washington, DC, for 51 straight years, so future leaders can have a front-row seat to American government.

What would rural communities look like without power? That is pretty difficult to imagine. Think about the power of electric cooperatives. Sure, our local electric co-ops keep the lights on, but, as I say, they do much more than that. Co-ops are not-for-profits and owned by their members. They recognize the need to invest in future generations. Co-ops give back to the communities they serve, and the Youth Tour is proof of that.

Each year, I enjoy taking time to visit with Kansans who are part of the Youth Tour because they are among the most energetic, engaging, and respectful young men and women I see throughout the year in Washington, DC. It is always valuable for us to have folks from our home states come and visit us, but it is especially pleasing to have these young men and women visit us. In my view, it is a program that has figured out how to find the best, brightest and those with the greatest interest and find a way for them to come to Washington, DC, and see our nation's capital and hopefully inspire them to continue their interest in government and politics throughout their lives.

Youth Tour alumni have gone on to become university presidents, Fortune 500 CEOs, members of Congress, and built lifelong friendships. In fact, just last week I had Jacob Helm in my office. He is from Norcatur, Kansas, a small town along the Colorado-Nebraska part of our state. Jacob is an individual I nominated to attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and he just graduated. He is now engaged to a fellow Youth Tour alumna, Michelle Peschel of Axtell, Kansas, which is on the other side of the state--Nebraska more than the Missouri part of our state. Both Jacob and Michelle grew up in communities of fewer than 500 people, and I am proud to see them giving back to their state and their country. They became engaged as a result of meeting each other on a Youth Tour back when they were in high school and will soon be married.

My own interest in public service stemmed from a summer internship from my Congressman when I was in college, and I am hopeful that visits like these that the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association provide for these young men and women--these visits to Washington, DC--will inspire these young people to get involved and work to improve their hometowns, our state, and our nation.

Each of these 1,700 Youth Tour students should be commended for being in Washington, DC, this week, just as our co-ops should be commended for realizing the need to invest in our future leaders.