Mr. Levit and Mr. Welborn go to Washington, meeting with Obama, Lankford, Inhofe
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Published: 31-Mar-2016

OKLAHOMA CITY – Two Oklahoma high school seniors are reflecting on advice they received, in person, from President Obama: “Think about what you want to do, not about what you want to be.”

Nathan Levit and Matthew Welborn met the President this month as part of the U.S. Senate Youth Program. They were among 104 young people from across the country to a weeklong insider’s look at Washington, D.C.

Levit, a senior at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa who will attend Princeton this fall, is still unsure of which career to pursue, but his visit reaffirmed his passion for public policy. Their visit with the president included a 40-minute question-and-answer session.

The big takeaway from a lot of the speakers was that we need to get people more involved and more informed,” Levit said. “In the midst of an election cycle, we need to encourage others to take the time to learn about the candidates and the issues. That’s something I’ve tried to do. I come away just thinking that’s more important than ever.”

Nearly two years ago, Levit founded Youth for Action, a group of students who try to get more young people involved in their communities. To do this, they partner with other clubs and write opinion articles from a youth perspective for The Tulsa World. The club has transcended the walls of Levit’s high school, with members now at Notre Dame and in Israel.

Levit, who has argued for a teen voice on his local school board, said he was inspired by a student delegate from Maryland whose school board includes a student member with the same privileges as any other member.

Both Levit and Welborn said the greatest part of their week was uniting with other young men and women from across the nation.

Welborn, student council president at Norman North, said, “It was great to hear their perspectives and what it’s like in their states, but also really good, deep philosophical conversations and debates about what the purpose of government is.” He plans to attend the University of Oklahoma to student engineering and then pursue a law degrees.

Throughout the entire week, for every speaker, no one was softballing any questions,” Welborn said. “The easiest question anyone got all week was when someone asked the President, ‘Any advice for us high schoolers?’ He responded with ‘Fighting cynicism.’ That struck a chord with me.”

The two young men also met with Oklahoma's U.S. Senators.

Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, praised the program, now in its 54th year: “This program is an investment. Not only does the Senate Youth Program recognize exceptional students, but it also exposes our nation’s next generation of leaders to the process of creating policy and shaping a nation. I am proud of the students from Oklahoma that are selected to join this year’s cohort.”

When Levit met U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, he was impressed that the senator asked for his opinions on a debate just held on the Senate floor.

Lankford said, "The Senate enjoyed having them participate in the program, and it's good that they were able to experience the Senate. Involvement in this program provides an experience unlike any other. It gives young people a window into the daily operations of the Senate, and it provides an opportunity for public service and leadership in our nation's capital.”

Both Levit and Welborn were nominated by the Oklahoma State Department of Education after going through an application process that adhered to the high standards set by the program. The Senate Youth Program is sponsored by the U.S. Senate and fully funded by the Heart Foundation.

Alumni of the U.S. Senate Youth Program include Robert Henry, former federal judge, state legislator and Oklahoma attorney general. He is now president of Oklahoma City University.

Delegates generally rank high academically and have shown leadership ability and a commitment to volunteer work. This week, the Oklahoma Department of Education circulated to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations information about the participation of Levit and Welborn in the trip to the nation's capital city.

For more information on the U.S. Senate Youth Program in Oklahoma, visit: http://sde.ok.gov/sde/social-studies#USSYP.


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