by Dan Sierotnik, LGS 2014 Government Day Design Team Member.
“Inspire, Educate, Act” was the theme for this year’s Government Day.
LGS 2014 class members DJ and Dave set the stage for the day with just a little help from Lil Jon. The day, while exploring the world of government, was not intended to become political. Quite a difficult task when you have elected officials in the midst of campaign season speaking to you, but the politics were graciously checked at the door and the result was fantastic.
The first portion of the day was intended to “Inspire” the class. Congressman Dan Maffei and Onondaga County Legislator Daniel Liedka both shared their inspiration, which has driven them to take a frontline position within the government. Maffei noted that public service is a sacrifice whether you are serving on boards or running for office, but we don’t move forward if we don’t get involved.
The rawness with which Liedka shared his story of his jump into the political arena was mesmerizing. He spoke from the heart, sharing a story of love, frustration, and action, which captivated every person in the audience.
Thank you to Kevin Tampone, LGS class 2008, for facilitating these discussions.
Dean Burrows, who is the President of Gear Motions and an LGS class member of 2003, led us through the second half of the morning in an activity that was designed to provide a greater understanding of the inner workings of Congress. While helping to refresh knowledge that had long been forgotten, we were also treated to many new fun facts…who knew JFK and Abe Lincoln shared so many bizarre connections?
To continue with our theme of education in the afternoon, Chief Esteban Gonzalez welcomed the class to the Onondaga County Justice Center. The class was able to tour the facility which was expectedly uncomfortable and eye opening. The reality of 60 residents in an open pod with only one guard is still somewhat difficult to believe.
Norm Poltenson, founder of the Central New York Business Journal, facilitated a thought provoking panel in the afternoon. Stefanie Heath-Higgins, founder of the Cuse Pit Crew, spoke of how she and a small core of people are working tirelessly to bring to the forefront and end the issue of animal cruelty within our city.
Janice Geddes was kind enough to relive her painful and exhausting journey to pass Jenna’s law following the loss of her daughter. Her unwavering persistence, which she half-jokingly attributes to her German descent, was inspiring to all of us.
Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli rounded out our panel and spoke to the change he is able to affect; among his most notable achievements is introducing the Amber Alert Program to New York State while still only a rookie in the political arena.
The overriding theme of the afternoon was passion, persistence, and patience. Norm elegantly challenged our class by stating “it’s obvious all of us in this room have passion, but what are we going to do with it? How are we going to channel it today?”
If today proved anything, it is that we can choose to be active in government at almost any level, and as long as we have the desire and drive, we can effect change.