A pat on the back from the President

Senior represents Texas at Girls Nation, meets Obama


Submitted photo

Senior Elizabeth Jowers was one of an elite group of high school students elected to Girls Nation this summer in Washington D.C. which included a face-to-face meeting with President Barack Obama.

Hannah Ortega, Lead Reporter

Senior Elizabeth Jowers heard footsteps coming down the hall.

This was it. This had to be it.

After waiting anxiously in a lavish room in the White House with many other girls, Jowers was sure it was finally time. The girls around her could hardly contain their excitement. Jowers pinched herself, sure she’d wake up from this wonderful dream, but she didn’t.

She sat on pins and needles as the footsteps grew closer.

The door finally opened and the group’s tour guide introduced them to “the Leader of the Free World.”

And there he was, in the same room as a small town Texas girl. President Barack Obama.

“The President walks in the room and we all lost it,” Jowers said. “Several people burst into tears, the girl next to me just starts giggling and couldn’t really hold it back and I just grinned like a freak. I was like, ‘This is so awesome!’”

Such an experience was provided by the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Girls Nation program. Jowers actually started her journey at ALA Girls State, after being encouraged to apply by AP U.S. history teacher Brian Erskine.

The President walks in the room and we all lost it. I just grinned like a freak.”

— senior Elizabeth Jowers

At Girls State, she and the other participants served in a fictional state legislative assembly and learned important skills, like how to write a bill. She and one other girl were then chosen to serve as Texas state senators at Girls Nation along with 96 other girls, two chosen from each state. There, she got an even deeper look at the government system.

I know this cliche is used to death, but I wanted her to see the civic sausage making process—the behind the scenes stuff,” Erskine said. “It is a messy and complicated process with competing interests and agendas. It takes a certain type of personality to be able to navigate that world, and I wanted to test her; I am happy to say she more than excelled.”

President Obama told the girls how proud he was of them and their passion for politics. It’s not every day that the President pats her on the back, so the moment was surreal for Jowers. He spent time telling all the girls of how they are the future of the nation and how that fills him with so much hope.

“As young women in America, he touched on the subject of how, in the past, barriers existed for us, and that now we inhabit a completely different environment, basically, where there really aren’t any barriers to women except for the ones that we make for ourselves,” Jowers said. “Like, my generation is the generation that’s going to make those final strides for women’s rights and equality. He said, ‘I’m looking out at you and there’s not a doubt in my mind that there could be a future President.”

Afterwards, Jowers swallowed her nerves and confidently shook the President’s hand. She introduced herself and told him she thought his trip to Africa, where he talked about women’s rights and education equality, was “fantastic.”

“I was scared I was going to forget my name,” Jowers said. “He really cared about meeting each of [us]. It wasn’t like a passing thing. He really listened to us.”

Before getting to meet the President, Jowers went through high security measures, which included getting her ID checked, getting checked off of a list of other girls in the program, and being sniffed by security dogs. Jowers and the other girls got a tour of the White House, and then they went to meet the President, whom they were told they might not even be able to see. However, the odds were in Jowers’ favor.

Jowers wants to enter the political field and study international affairs and then Latin American studies. She’d also like to work at an embassy and said she was interested in becoming a human rights lawyer. Jowers was sure her experience at both ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation will assist her in achieving her dreams.

I really got a lot of insight into how the legislative process works, which is valuable whether you’re going into politics or you’re going to do something in a private organization,” Jowers said.

Throughout her once in a lifetime experience, Jowers gained valuable information about politics while also making friends and memories she will never forget. Erskine was pleased with Jowers’s performance at the program, and it didn’t surprise him that she excelled.

“Elizabeth is a total package kind of student,” Erskine said. “She is universally well-regarded, bilingual, earns great grades, is a model citizen, and seeks to change the world around her through civic engagement. She’s exactly the type of person we should want impacting our future.”