Whenever I go to a baseball game I love to see children when they catch sight of the field for the first time. It’s not a “Field of Dreams” moment because I don’t think they are so much mesmerized by the grass or fascinated by the game. They’re usually thinking “how’d they get THIS in HERE?” What goes on during the game is probably an afterthought too and any love of the game is fueled by memories of cotton candy, hot dogs and a stuffed green monster. One of my earliest memories is of Fenway Park, but not because of the glory of the 1977 team. I overheated in the summer sun and had to be taken to the first aid station to cool off. There was a TV mounted on the wall and I remember thinking how neat it was that what I was watching was happening right outside the door. I’m sure my father was thinking the same thing (not). Still, that early exposure is probably why I still love the game today.
Last week I chaperoned a group of children representing Colt-Andrews Student Government on a field trip to the State House. Most of them had never been there and were in awe of the architecture, art and number of light bulbs in the chandelier. Thanks to Representative Gallison the students had the opportunity to learn about some of the issues that are currently being debated and even had a chance to cast a vote. We also had coveted guest seating on the floor of the House Chamber to listen to the evening’s proceedings. While I’d like to say that the students understood the whirl of activity that occurred as they whipped through the agenda, I’d be lying. I think most of them just enjoyed the opportunity to watch the goings on and to hear their names being read into the record. I hope that some of them thought about how they’d like to be there again someday.
As our little group of 25 left the building I thought about the thousands of other Rhode Island school children who have never been to the State House — and about their parents — who have not idea about what goes on inside the building. The truth is that we rely on a very small group of people in the media to keep us informed on what happens in state government. There are few Rhode Islanders that run for office, leaving far more of us outside the process and for the most part unaware of the decisions that impact all of us. Many legislators get little or no feedback from their constituents and don’t have staff, making session a grueling and frustrating time. State government is also decidedly inconvenient — the children weren’t home until 6 and legislators are often there well into the evening — a long day for those with “real” jobs and families that would like to see them.
Our behind-the-scenes look was like a trip through the locker room — pretty cool, even if it can be stinky. I just hope some of these will might grow up and want to play the political game.