I honestly had no idea what to expect on my trip to Washington D.C.. I had just become District 14’s newest Youth Commissioner and I was new to the whole thing. To be honest, I was sort of freaking out about going on this trip in the first place. While I would say I knew some of the members somewhat well, I wasn’t so sure about being able to get used to the new setting in time for the trip. Little did I know that my worries would be for nothing; not only did I manage to learn more about our country’s plans for the future, I was able to learn how the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law would benefit Texas cities directly. I met with Dallas City Council members, mayors, and our lobbyist, learning about all the recent changes that were going to affect cities around the state. Not only that, I was able to form meaningful relationships and make amazing memories along the way.
I will forever be super grateful for the lessons that the youth-centered part of NLC has taught me. Aside from being able to meet other youth from around the country, I was able to form connections with them and discuss the topics of the conference. I met some really sweet and intelligent teens from Dublin and Georgia, who told us about their school and what it was like to live in a small town. Other Youth Councils from Tampa and Florida socialized with us and made the conference feel like a fun, more welcoming place for the Dallas Youth Commission. NLC gave youth like us the opportunity to talk about issues in our community and find out what other Councils are doing to solve these issues. I was inspired by the hard work it must have taken teens to come up with such innovative ideas. Of course, the Dallas Youth Commission was never left out of the spotlight. We presented the “Spotlight Project” and the youth-run magazine at a session we had with the other youth. I personally learned so much about what other youth were doing for their cities and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next time.
As for the general parts of NLC. Being able to sit in on council meetings with our lobbyists, as well as mayors and representatives from Texas cities, was something that I never thought I would be able to experience. I had never been particularly educated in the inner workings of city governments, much less what their specific roles were at a state-wide level. Sitting in that room and learning about the money Texas cities had the ability to receive directly through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, what they should use this money for, and how it would be distributed was an eye-opening experience. Not only was I able to do that, I was able to listen in on different politicians give speeches about the current issues that are plaguing society. From the Russian-Ukrainian War, to the setbacks in youth involvement regarding voting, as well as providing safe drinking water to communities across the country, it was an enlightening experience. I also had the opportunity to watch President Biden speak at the conference! I was astonished that I was in the same room as the President of the United States. His speech was not only well-written, but it touched on some sensitive topics that needed to be addressed. He talked about unemployment rates going down at record speed, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the ongoing war, and the struggles faced by tax-paying citizens. For example, he said the following in his speech:
“55 of the largest corporations in the Fortune 500 paid zero in federal taxes last year and made 40 billion dollars in profits… Look, I said I’m a capitalist, that’s not about punishing anybody. But why in God’s name should a million dollar corporation pay a lower tax rate than a teacher or a firefighter?”
As the daughter of a teacher, I understand how unfair it is that these billionaires are paying nothing, while the rest of society is subject to unfairly high taxes. I don’t mean to brag, but I was probably the loudest cheer in the room whenever he said this. I finally felt that people were acknowledging the disparities that were attributed to taxpayers across the country, and that there will hopefully be changes made in the future to fix this. Not only was his inflection engaging and emotional, he was able to simplify and summarize his goals for the future in a comprehensive way. While the other speeches at the conference were extremely educational and informative, I would say that Biden’s speech was the highlight of the conference.
Overall, the trip to Washington D.C. was an unforgettable experience that taught me many valuable lessons. It was a valuable educational experience that I was privileged to attend. From the guest speakers and speech, corroborating with the other youth councils from across the country, and sightseeing with the DYC, there was never a dull moment on our NLC 2022 trip!
Written by: Andrea Mercado-Cruz
Edited by: Ricardo Corpus