Myra Soukup, a senior at St. Mary’s High School, is not a typical teenager.
In her spare time she studys her favorite politicians and since she was very young her favorite television show has been 60 minutes. She even met her hero, President Barack Obama, on June 1, 2012.
It is only fitting then that the Oscar O. Haugen Unit #365, American Legion Auxiliary out of Hanska chose Myra as a candidate for Girls State, held on the campus of Bethel University in Arden Hills on June 9-15.
Myra was also chosen as a candidate for Girls Nation. Two girls are selected from each Girls State program to attend Girls Nation, a national government training program. Girls Nation “Senators” meet for a week in Washington, D.C., where they run for political office, campaign for the passage of legislation and possibly meet with state representatives and senators. Capping off the week of Girls Nation is oftentimes a meeting with the President of the United States at the White House.
“If I have a chance to speak to the President again, I’m going to ask him if he remembers me and I’ll tell him I’m from Minnesota and that I’ve met him once before,” Myra said.
In addition to being selected to attend Girls Nation, Myra was named Senior Senator, which designates her as the person with the most votes at Girls State. She also received the Spirit Award, an award that is voted on by the people in her dorm.
To be elected to Girls Nation, Myra filled out an application and wrote an essay on why she wanted to go to Girls Nation and what she would bring to the program.
“I said that I would bring my unique personality and diversity and my opinion to Girls Nation,” Myra added.
After her application and essay were accepted, Myra and the other candidates who expressed interest in attending Girls Nation, asked to take a current events test on the state and federal government and current events.
There were approximately 50 finalists who took the test and out of those 50, Myra was one of seven finalists who were required to answer a fish bowl question.
Myra’s fishbowl question was: “If you were in charge of the national budget, what items would you prioritize?”
“In my opinion it would be education, healthcare and social security,” Myra said. She went on to say that she would also focus her attention on the national deficit and the military.
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Myra said at Girls Nation she expects there to be less state, county and city government and more focus on national government.
Myra will attend Girls Nation July 20-27 in Washington, D.C.
Minnesota Girls State is learning about government at the local, county and state levels by actually participating in and organizing the various levels of branches of government in Minnesota.
Each girl is a citizen of a city and county. The girls begin the week by studying city government and then electing city officials and organizing city government. The girls then proceed to the county and state levels, each time learning how it is done and then actually campaigning, electing, organizing and carrying on the business of government.
Some of the highlights for Myra were the legislative sessions held at the Minnesota State Capitol in the House and Senate chambers and mock trials held in the Judicial center.
For the week Myra was a state Senator on the Senate floor writing bills.
Myra’s bill, lowering taxes for small businesses so they would pay lower taxes or no taxes in the beginning, did not have time to be heard.
“I could have used one more hour!” Myra said.
The other bill from Myra’s committee, the tax committee, was the only one that was signed into law by the Girls State Governor.
“I learned an interesting and valuable lesson,” Myra said. “I saw how government works and why bills can sometimes take so long to pass. To really, truly understand the process fully, I acted just like I was a Senator. I understand it better now because I did that.”
Myra said she has been interested in politics since after 9-11, but even before that, the television series 60 minutes was her favorite TV show.
Myra said her future plans include becoming a lawyer and maybe dabbling in politics.
“A new thing I’ve been considering since coming back from Girls State is the idea of doing something in the legislative branch,” Myra said. “It was more fun participating in the legislative system because it is more of a debate than the judicial system.”
Myra added that she would like to attend an Ivy League University or Oxford in England.
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Myra is a member of the National Honor Society, volunteers for the YES! Team and is on the Mock Trial team. She lives in New Ulm with her parents and younger sister, Hali.