While much of the nation was focusing on Washington, D.C.’s inaugural ceremony there was another one taking place that week in Connecticut that recognized a much younger chief executive. On Jan. 22 Connecticut swore in its sixth Kid Governor, 5th grader Reese Naughton.
“Together we can get through this,” said Reese, referring to the pandemic as part of her inaugural address, part of a two-hour ceremony in Hartford that included speeches by many of the state’s elected leaders, songs and comments by other kids and adults. Reese’s platform focused on positivity, which, she said, is “so important for mental health.”
Connecticut’s Kid Governor program was started in 2015 by the Connecticut Democracy Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ”educate and engage people in state government and civic life.” Other programs include a tour of the “Old State House” and a Connecticut History Day for middle and high schoolers.
The Kids Governor program invites fifth graders to run for the Governor’s Office in a full-blown November campaign cycle that includes videos, posters and a statewide vote among seven finalists. Past Kid Governors have worked on matters such as animal welfare and civility. The common thread for candidate pledges this year, according to organizer Brian Cofrancesco, was kindness.
Kid Governor Naughton will serve a full year in office, along with her seven-member Cabinet. Some of her plans include Valentine’s Day cards to be sent from fifth-graders to nursing homes, statewide posters with positive messages and encouragement of “safe outdoor activities.”
The Connecticut Democracy Center is promoting creation of other Kid Governor programs around the nation, and Oregon and New Hampshire are two other states that have adopted the model.
Civic engagement is clearly a way of life in Connecticut. Another great program is the Connecticut Civic Ambassadors’ program created by Everyday Democracy, which enlists resident leaders from communities around the state to engage their neighbors. Everyday Democracy is headquartered in Hartford and works with communities nationwide to support community organizing and dialogue.
Best of luck to Connecticut’s new Kid Governor! May your spirit of positivity spread far and wide!