The 79th session of American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State got underway for the first full day with special presentations by two of West Virginia’s political leaders. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, and Secretary of State Mac Warner addressed the citizens with advice for making a difference.

Capito told the citizens not to be discouraged from seeking public office because of current political controversaries. She reminded them that a political career is one where you can help people.

“What’s really special is when you can help one family or special group,” Capito said.

The first female elected to the U.S. Senate from West Virginia, Capito relayed that 24% of the Senate is comprised of women and said she expects that number to increase.

“We need a diversity. We need all the perspectives to mesh our government,” Capito said.

Warner also encouraged the Girls State citizens to make a difference by staying engaged through seeking public office and voting. He cited an example of selecting representatives who decide how tax dollars are spent.

Actor Lee Dean portrayed the late U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph to tell the story of how the 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution came into being. In 1943, Randolph introduced legislation to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. Although his attempt failed, he continued the fight and after 11 tries, Congress passed the legislation in 1971.

Davis & Elkins College alumna Ella Mae Thompson Haddix ’75 was the first 18-year-old to register to vote in the nation. Randolph drove to the College to escort her to the Randolph County Courthouse to fill out the proper paperwork.

Speaking to the Girls State Citizens, Haddix said she was honored to have Randolph accompany her to make a mark in history. She emphasized that voting in each election has held importance to her and encouraged the citizens to stay involved in the election process.

“You can’t complain if you don’t take action,” Haddix said.

American Legion Auxiliary West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State continues with sessions on the Davis & Elkins College campus through Friday, June 17. Established in 1941 under the sponsorship and direction of the American Legion Auxiliary Department of West Virginia, Rhododendron Girls State is a premier experiential hands-on program that focuses on citizenship and patriotism, and develops leadership and pride in American citizens, educates citizens about our system of government, instills a greater understanding of American traditions, and stimulates a desire to maintain our democratic government processes within our republic.

Shelley Moore Capito

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito speaks to American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State citizens in Myles Center for the Arts Harper-McNeeley Auditorium. Looking on is 2021 Girls State Governor Sidney Megna.

Mac Warner

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner explains the importance of voting to American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State citizens.