Oregon Now Has a Kid Governor

Oregon’s rising generation makes me optimistic about our future! 

We all can agree that there is a growing need for Oregon students to know more about our government. To that end, I promised to enhance the Archives Division’s civics education curriculum. Now, with the introduction of Oregon’s Kid Governor program, Oregon is becoming a national leader in civics education for fifth graders.

January 8th was an exciting day for Oregon. I had the honor and privilege of participating in the inauguration of Oregon’s first Kid Governor, Dom Peters.

Students, parents, educators, and honored guests attended this inauguration ceremony held in the Oregon Capitol’s Senate Chamber. In addition, the proceedings were live-streamed to students in fifth grade classes throughout the state

We took the opportunity of our Kid Governor's inauguration to teach about the three branches of state government. Since Governor Brown was unable to attend, I taught on the Executive branch, Senate President Peter Courtney spoke on the Legislative branch, and Former Chief Justice Paul De Muniz explained the role of the Judicial branch.

Eleven-year-old Kid Governor Dom Peters spoke eloquently as he gave his inaugural address in the Senate Chamber—an intimidating challenge for anyone, regardless of their age.

The Oregon Kid Governor program will be an annual event open to participating schools statewide. Students in fifth grade nominate one classmate to run for Kid Governor, then those nominees produce a 1-3 minute “campaign video” highlighting their plan to tackle an issue that is important to them. Seven finalist videos are chosen by a panel of judges, and students in fifth grade classrooms across the state vote for one of the seven finalists. Kid Governor Peters campaigned on a platform to end bullying and promote kindness at school. 

I hope you will spend a few minutes watching the campaign videos of Dom and the seven outstanding finalists—Allison, Brady, Cameron, Jasmine, Karalee, Mia, and Sarah. I am so proud of them all! 

Although the Secretary of State’s Archives Division has been offering civics education online for many years, State Archivist Mary Beth Herkert and I believe we should teach civics to Oregon schools in new, exciting, and innovative ways. With Oregon’s Kid Governor program only in its first year, we had more than 20 students submit videos and more than 1,350 fifth graders vote statewide in the election.

I first learned about the Kid Governor program through the Connecticut Public Affairs Network which created Connecticut’s Kid Governor. We were attracted to the Connecticut program because of its “participatory democracy” style of teaching civics.

Kid Governor Dom Peters is truly a remarkable young man. I encourage you to get to know him by watching the complete inauguration video on Oregon’s Kid Governor Facebook page and follow his work on Oregon’s Kid Governor official website and blog. Dom will be engaging in activities throughout the year to bring awareness to his anti-bullying platform and encourage kids and adults to learn about and participate in state government. 

Lastly, if you have a child or grandchild who will be in the fifth grade this fall, now is the perfect time to encourage them to consider a run for Oregon’s Kid Governor 2019. That “campaign” will begin in September. You can also encourage your local schools to participate in the program. Email Mary Beth Herkert, Director of Oregon’s Kid Governor Program, to get started. 

Dennis Richardson