Weekly Columns

August is such an exciting time as students head back to school. Like most kids, I enjoyed stocking up on new school supplies and preparing for my first days of school in Fort Smith. In these early days of the school year, students and staff share what they did during the summer break. For many students, the time away from school offers them more time to explore their interests. One summer that I will always remember was when I taught kids how to swim. Helping others develop an interest or skill they can nurture throughout their life was particularly rewarding. Today, seeing young Arkansans experience that same feeling is just as fulfilling. 

I had the opportunity to meet some young Arkansans who took advantage of their time out of the classroom to develop their interests, gain valuable experience and foster lifelong connections to help them build a foundation to be the leaders of tomorrow. 

This includes young men and women like Nicholas Van Sloten from Bentonville, Steven Lowry from Hot Springs, Gillian Wall of Bentonville and Anna Cunningham of DeWitt. These students spent part of their summer gaining leadership skills during their time in Washington as representatives of Arkansas Boys and Girls Nation. I was very impressed with these young Arkansans and look forward to hearing how this experience shapes their future endeavors. 

It’s great to see young Arkansans passionate about making a difference, advocating for causes important to them and encouraging action. I met with teens from Arkansas who were in the nation’s capital participating in the Girl Up Leadership Summit. This campaign works to empower young women around the globe. Little Rock’s Adrianne Owings was recently selected as a Teen Advisor to the campaign. She brings a lot of enthusiasm to this position and is ready to change the world. 

I saw this same enthusiasm in the 20 interns who worked in my office this summer to serve the people of Arkansas. I appreciated the dedication and the commitment of these interns to work with my staff and myself to address issues concerning our state. They took advantage of the opportunities in Washington - learning about the legislative process and the services my office provides to the people of Arkansas. They were great ambassadors of my office. 

Several Arkansas Future Farmers of America (FFA) members visited our nation’s capital to discuss federal agriculture policy. One out of every six jobs in Arkansas is tied to this industry, making it critical to our state’s economy. 

It’s great to see teens taking an interest in learning more about agribusiness and being encouraged to enter farming and ranching to ensure that we can continue to meet the demands of the public with the largest and safest supply of food in the world. 

There are many other Arkansas youth that I had the privilege to meet with during the summer who serve as great examples for the state and represent the future of our country. The lessons learned both in the classroom and through these valuable summer experiences will help develop leaders for the future.