Annabeth Briley, who is starting her senior year at Sacred Heart High School, was chosen from the pool of students attending Louisiana Girls State to go on to attend Girls Nation in Washington, DC, where she served on the mock Senate and was appointed to the Supreme Court. She is pictured here on the right with United States Senator John Kennedy. (Photo courtesy of Annabeth Briley)
Living the preamble
The Constitution of the United States forms the foundation for the country’s government. According to its preamble, the purpose of this American government is “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
The American Legion provides opportunities to get the country’s youth more involved in the process of forming that more perfect union by sending students from across the country to Washington, DC, for a week long Boys and Girls Nation.
One of these students from Louisiana who had the chance to attend this year’s Girls Nation is Annabeth Briley from Sacred Heart High School, who called the event life changing and an amazing experience.
“It was a cool experience because we really got to learn about the Senate, and everyone there is so intelligent,” Briley said. “It’s like our own little mini Senate which was really cool.”
She continued, “There are two girls from every state, and every state brings a bill. We have meetings, and we discuss and debate the bills and decide whether or not to pass them. If they are passed, then they are sent to our senators to bring to the actual Senate floor.”
While in Washington, DC, the members of Girls Nation got to meet their senators including Louisiana’s senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy. “Girls from a lot of the other states didn’t even get to meet their senators, or their senators would just take one picture and leave,” Briley said. “But, our senators from Louisiana were really nice and very talkative. They were really accommodating to us and really cared. They talked to us about our political views and how the program was going.”
There was also the chance for an unscheduled meeting with Congressman Mike Johnson who represents Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District that includes Evangeline Parish. “He was awesome because we didn’t have a scheduled appointment with him,” said Briley. “We just showed up and asked if he could talk to us, and he did. He was really nice. That was awesome of him to just make time for us.”
For Briley, who was appointed to the Supreme Court, the thing that was the most fun about Girls Nation was meeting people from other areas of the country. “It was fun to see all of our different cultures and connecting over the things that we do have in common,” she stated. “Even people with different political views were able to have sensible conversations with each other without forcing each other to change their minds. We were just able to discuss our views and accept each other for our views. That was just so powerful. I really have high hopes for the future.”
Briley was selected to attend Girls Nation from the pool of girls who attended this year’s Louisiana Girls State, which is also sponsored by the American Legion. As Briley explained, “Whenever we had the meeting before Girls State, they said we could apply for Girls Nation. We had to bring the application with us and turn it in whenever we got to Girls State.”
Girls State, which was on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, was another interesting experience for Briley. “Whenever we tell people about Girls State, it sounds so boring because it sounds like government camp,” she said. “We learned about how government works on the state level, and that doesn’t sound fun to people. But, going there is such an experience. I made so many life long friends, and I’m so blessed to have been chosen to represent Sacred Heart.”
According to Briley, one of the hot button state issues was whether or not to abolish pineapple on pizza. A city ordinance that was passed made it mandatory for the girls to make moose ears when walking through the forest.
At Girls State, as at Girls Nation, Briley was able to assume some leadership roles. “I was a police chief, and I got to arrest people,” she said. “That was fun, and I was on the law side of Girls State whenever we made court cases. That was really fun because I plan to go into law when I’m older, so it was good to experience it at a fun level.”
Briley, who is starting her senior year at Sacred Heart, is no stranger to such leadership roles as she is Student Council vice president as well as being an officer for just about every other extracurricular activity.
After graduation, Briley plans on attending either Duke or Boston College where she hopes to double major in history and French and then go on to law school.
As she prepares to walk through the Halls of Troy for the last year before going off to the Atlantic coast, Briley will take with her the most important aspects she learned from being chosen to attend Girls State and Girls Nation.
“It’s so important for us upcoming seniors who are almost 18-years-old to get more involved in politics,” Briley expressed. “To be a good citizen you have to know how your government works. Girls and Boys State Programs really help kids to understand what the government is and how everything works so that they will want to actively participate in voting, being a good citizen on city boards, and just making for a greater city, state, and country.”
“I hope I represented Louisiana and Ville Platte well,” she concluded.