I’m so impressed when I meet young Idahoans who are taking part in the political process.

These young men and women are learning the craft of citizenship -- educating themselves about the issues, learning the ins and outs of government, and acquiring the skills and character traits to become leaders in their communities. As adults, we have a special responsibility to nurture the next generation of Idaho leaders and to encourage all young Idahoans to be engaged in the political process.

Recently, I met several high school students from Meridian who are part of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council (MYAC). Each year, MYAC chooses a topic that could improve public policy and works to achieve it. The MYAC teens proposed lowering the age for organ donation from 16 to 15.  After a meeting with Rep. Jason Monks, R-Nampa, he agreed to introduce their bill in the Idaho Legislature. 

The MYAC students and I discussed the bill, House Bill 546, and I was impressed by their knowledge and passion. They made the point that if 15 is the age that people can drive, it should also be the age that people can be an organ donor (if they choose to be). That makes a lot of sense. The Idaho House and Senate agreed, passing H.B. 546 unanimously. This week, Gov. Butch Otter signed the bill into law. To learn more about the MYAC teens, check out two stories KIVI did here and here

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[Meeting with Meridian high school students]

The students and I talked about several other issues, and they asked me some great questions about public service. When one student asked me, “What do you like most about your job in Congress?” my answer was simple: Meeting Idahoans. It helps me be a better representative and it inspires me to see everyday Idahoans grow, succeed, and make our state better.

I was inspired again on Tuesday when I met Austen Thomason, a University of Idaho student and Treasurer of the Idaho FFA. Founded in 1928 as Future Farmers of America, FFA is a national student organization dedicated to supporting and promoting agricultural education. FFA helps students prepare for careers in business, science, horticulture, forestry, and many other diverse fields. Today, nearly 650,000 students are FFA members.

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[Meeting with Austen Thomason]

Austen was in DC as part of National Ag Day, meeting with Idaho leaders to raise awareness about the importance of agriculture. Austen, who’s originally from Weiser, didn’t grow up on a farm. He was inspired to learn about farming when he went to the Washington County Fair and saw the 4-H exhibits.  Austen is majoring in agribusiness and minoring in political science. He wants to be an Agriculture Specialist for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and get more involved in the political process.

Austen is smart to be focusing on agriculture and government because they are both important issues and they affect each other. Over 40,000 Idahoans work in the ag industry and 20 percent of Idaho’s sales each year are generated by agriculture and food/beverage processing. Thinking globally, the world population is expected to grow by 2 billion people in the next 35 years. Which begs the question: Who will feed them? It seems like a great challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity. With future leaders like Austen, I know that Idaho agriculture will be ready to seize that opportunity and grow even further.

I appreciate the work that FFA, the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council, and so many other organizations are doing training the next generation of Idaho leaders. They are part of an impressive quilt of organizations harnessing the energy and intelligence of young men and women and turning them into leaders we can be proud of.

We should be excited to have such an impressive generation of young Idahoans. Every time I spend time with them, I’m convinced that Idaho’s future will be brighter than ever.