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Senator Jacobsen goes back to school

by Linda Hiller

State legislators from Nevada joined colleagues from across the United States Friday for America’s Legislators Back to School Day, a new effort aimed at teaching students the value of public service.

In Gardnerville, Nevada Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, spoke in the Gardnerville Elementary School classroom of his daughter-in-law, 5th grade teacher, Robbi Jacobsen.

The senator told the 28 students in the classroom -many in pajamas for GES’s Pajama Day – that compromise is one of the most important things a legislator learns to do. That, and arguing your side of an issue.

“We have to prove our points and tell what’s good and what’s bad about any issue we’re debating,” he said. “We usually present the most important points – the who, what, where and why – of an issue and try to research it well. I’ll bet each of you have a subject on which you can be an expert, whether it’s pets or sports or something you’re interested in.”

Jacobsen explained the Nevada Legislature to the students, informing them that it convenes in odd-numbered years and will begin again in February, 2001 for 120 days of lawmaking.

Jacobsen also compared being a legislator to being a student.

“We have to have our lessons all day and then we have to take a test,” he said. “You never get out of homework.”

Jacobsen told the students that a legislator is a spokesman for all the people he or she represents.

“Half of the people you’ll be on the good side of, and half of the people you’ll be on the bad side of,” he said. “Just remember to be honorable, don’t get mean and be clean in mind and body.”

During the question and answer period of the presentation, students almost wanted to know more about Jacobsen’s experience in World War II than his nearly four decades in public service.

“Do you get a lot of complaints from senior citizens?” asked Joe Clark after Mrs. Jacobsen reminded the students to focus on the legislature.

“Absolutely,” Senator Jacobsen answered. “We get complaints from everywhere, and senior citizens want to know about things like Medicare and medicine and transportation, and people also complain to us about water and pollution.”

Jacobsen told the kids to pay attention while they’re in school and don’t take it for granted.

“Get all you can out of life, because as a legislator, there’s no substitute for experience,” he said. “Especially your school years – you can never go back.”

– National involvement. Friday, as many as 2,000 state legislators participated in America’s Legislators Back to School Day nationwide.

Last year, the program was offered in only six states – one of them Nevada – and reached more than 4,000 students. That success encouraged the National Conference on State Legislatures to offer the program to all 50 states this year.

“America’s Legislators Back to School Day provides a unique opportunity for legislators and students to exchange ideas and explore legislative concepts face to face,” said William Pound, NCSL executive director.

Many Nevada legislators statewide, from the senate and assembly, participated in Friday’s educational event, but Jacobsen was the only Carson Valley participant.

America’s Legislators Back to School Day is a bipartisan event designed to teach young people – the nation’s future voters and leaders – what it is like to be a state legislator: the processes, the pressures and the debate, negotiation and compromise that are the very fabric of a representative democracy.

The NCSL is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Denver, Colo., and is composed of the nation’s state legislators and staff.

Partners in Friday’s event were the Center for Civic Education, the National Education Association, the American Association of Elementary School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.