by Hanna Miyake, 8th Grade GCS Student
One of the best memories in my life is the experience I got being a page. Pages are eighth grade girls and boys, who are picked throughout the state, who deliver messages throughout the State House. Besides delivering messages, pages also take copies, guide lost tourists, help carry heavy items, and run other errands.
During January third to February tenth, Tuesday morning and Friday afternoon, representatives who live near me drove me to and from home. Each trip took about two and a half hours. I stayed with a local family in Montpellier during Tuesday through Friday, and commuted to the State House everyday. I went to Guilford Central School on Mondays, and received the week's homework. Since I never did my homework while I was in Montpelier, I had to work really hard on Sundays. I worked nine hours a day, walking around the huge Vermont State House, which was really tiring. However, I made many good friends, learned a lot, and had fun, so I'm really glad I was picked to be a page. After work, all the pages wandered around downtown Montpellier. We found tasty bread shops, a movie theater, and other stores selling little knickknacks. Since we got paid working at the State House, we used that money to eat and buy things.
The Vermont government is similar to the U.S. government in many ways. The Governor is the top person of the State. When the Governor enters a room, you must stop whatever you were doing, and stand. In the state, there are two kinds of legislators. These are senators and representatives, and there are one hundred and eighty (30 senators and 150 representatives) in all. Since there were so many people, it was hard to remember each legislator's face, seat number, and name, but everyone was kind to me, so I did my best. Pages swap work positions every few days, but every time I was stationed in the House of Representatives or the Senate Chamber, I would get very nervous. Since there are many representatives, the House of Representatives is much larger than the Senate chamber. If we listen to what the legislators are talking about, we get sidetracked from our work, so we were asked not to listen too deeply into their conversation. Sometimes a session can take many hours, and at those times the pages stationed there get very tired. I heard from one legislator I know, that in a few cases a session can last until near two o'clock in the morning! Of course, the pages leave work at four thirty anyway.
Before the Governor enters a session, the Speaker of the House must ask the other legislators if he may come in. If they say 'Aye', that means that they allow him to join, and if they say 'Nay', that means they won't allow him to join. Never in history have the legislators forbidden him from entering, but some representatives sometimes say 'nay' as a joke. I don't know why they even have this system, but I thought it was interesting.
Other than legislators, there are the lobbyists. Lobbyists try to appeal whatever cause they are appealing to the senators and representatives. They lurk in the State House cafeteria, Cardroom, and Main Lobby and give out food, candy, and knickknacks with advertisements on them (such as key chains and flashlights). Pages are allowed to take free things as well. I saw people from electric industries, farming industries, education, people who want blood, and dentists. Everyday there is a new group of people lobbying. I ran into an old friend lobbying for an adult education organization. Not only lobbyists, but legislators also let us take candy. I ate way too many sweet things in the first week, and got sick, so I lessened the amount from then on.
Since Vermont is a small state, the only time when legislators are actually in session are January through the end of April. At the top of the State house over the golden dome, stands the Greek goddess of agriculture, Demeter. Pages are taken on a tour through the inner dome. I touched the statue of Demeter with my own hands, and I also got to sign my name inside the dome. The State House is full of history, so tourists can visit it too. It is one of the great things in Vermont. Next to the State House stands the Vermont Historical Society Museum, which is also a great spot to visit. If you have the chance to visit Montpellier, definitely visit the State House.