A generous appearance
Sen. Hank Sanders of Alabama found himself moved by his recent visit to East End Elementary School, the poorest in Selma.
The state lawmaker, who was brought in to speak about Black History Month, was one of 13 children who grew up in a three-room house.
He told the Selma children about growing up poor but feeling motivated at school.
"When I was in the 7th grade, our teacher had each of us stand once a week and tell what we were going to do when we grew up," he said. "This day I stood up and said, 'I am going to be a lawyer.'"
When his classmates laughed, he recalled, it made him cry.
In the end, however, Mr. Sanders graduated from Harvard with a law degree. And he urged the children in Selma to set goals for themselves.
After asking each student to stand and voice his or her hopes, and hearing a entire school of children become ambitious, Mr. Sanders made a big promise.
He told the assembly of 113 students that if they stayed in school and worked hard, he and his wife, who is also a lawyer, would help them pay for college and start toward their newly stated goals.
It was only after the commitment that Mr. Sanders was confronted with the price of his pledge. While not estimated precisely, observers told him it would be steep. But the senator did not back down.
"We will help supplement the scholarships, financial aid, and family assistance so each can attend at least a state school," Sen. Sanders said, noting that he now must determine how to raise the money.
The appearance amazed school officials, who said they could not recall a more motivational guest speaker.
Back-seat governors can try to run their own states with an Internet game created by the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center.
The game, called "$5.8 Billion and Change," challenges players to score points by making wise political and financial decisions. A recession might hit, the federal government might change Medicaid rules, or a court decision could create confusion.
Players get eight years to balance a budget--a job that real governors have to earn four years at a time.
The game can be downloaded at http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/ltprc/home.htm.