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Focus on blessings, not differences

Soon, the pundits and pollsters will be silent and the nasty campaign mailers, relentless radio ads and phone calls will have ceased, at least until the next election cycle.

It’s a tough task to run for office, and kudos to all who give it a go.

While other legislators had to be in constant campaign mode, it’s the midpoint of my Senate term, giving me a respite from the frenzy, which I appreciate.

There’s plenty of work to do in my district, though, and this past month I attended lots of meetings, such as on mining in the west end of Montrose County, forest health, job development and continued challenges in accessing healthcare in my district.

I also had some particularly bright moments with Colorado’s youth. The Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC) had its annual two-day meeting, this time in Granby at the YMCA camp. We’re at a point where COYAC is recognized statewide as representative of the youth voice in Colorado and it’s exciting.

This winter, COYAC members will help the Colorado Supreme Court prepare for the May 2013 opening of the new judicial complex in Denver. They’ll be reading through applications to select 100 eighth-graders from across Colorado who’ll meet and talk with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor at the opening.

The COYAC members also will be working on a bill to renew the youth council, now at five years old. They’ll participate in drafting the bill and testify at the Capitol as did the students who first worked on establishing COYAC in 2008. There’s continued work on the issue of teen suicide prevention that COYAC took up last year.

Any student between the ages of 14-19 who’s interested in applying to be on COYAC can find the application at or contact me for information.

In addition to the time spent with the COYAC youth members, I was invited to speak with the juniors and seniors at Telluride’s high school and with the fourth-graders studying state government at Animas Valley Elementary, north of Durango.

Having the several chances for more concentrated time with the students was a breath of fresh air and a healthy break from the political turmoil going on around us. Some of the observations and priorities expressed were honest, direct and questioning of how we choose to do things today, particularly at election time. To challenge status quo is the norm for young people, but given the vitriol that we see in the adult world, there are some serious lessons the young people have to teach us.

I asked the students why they thought Colorado has such a large, growing number of unaffiliated young voters. After all, these students are soon to be of voting age. The responses varied, but a theme emerged that they want serious and respectful conversations on the different points of view and they’re skeptical of the current hyperpartisan environment. They see the world around them as more complicated than sound bites.

The youth message I heard was that they are ready to take responsibility for their own decision making and want to hear more, rather than fewer, views. Taking a cue from my young friends, then, as Thanksgiving approaches and we recover from a tough political season, let’s focus on our blessings and not our differences.

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