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Reeves stresses importance of education

WESSON – State Treasurer Tate Reeves stressed the importance ofeducation and opportunity during an address to the delegates of the2007 American Legion Boys State.

“I commend you for taking a week out of your summer schedule tolearn about government, leadership and social responsibility,”Reeves said in the Copiah-Lincoln Community College auditoriumTuesday night.

Boys State affords young men the opportunity to learn aboutgovernment and politics while meeting and exchanging ideas withseveral of the state’s public officials.

Reeves, who is seeking re-election to a second term, said partof the state treasurer’s duties is to administer the state’scollege savings programs. He urged the students to continue theireducation at a junior or major college.

To make his point, Reeves said an average high school graduateearns $10.50 per hour while a college graduate earns $17 an hour,57 percent more or an average of $1 million more in a lifetime. Theaverage graduate student earns even more at $22 per hour, hesaid.

Despite the earnings increase, only one in five high graduateswill attend a institution of higher learning, he said.

“What we’ve got to look at is education as a lifelong tool,”Reeves said. “I believe this is not just an issue for our youngpeople. It’s a generational issue.”

Later, during the question and answer portion of the program, astudent asked Reeves his stance on educational reform.

“All too often we have battles in education pitting oneeducational entity against another (for funding). I don’t thinkthat’s a good idea,” Reeves said. “Education does not start at acertain grade nor does it end at a certain grade.”

The state treasurer indicated the Legislature took steps towardaddressing that concern this year with full funding of theMississippi Adequate Education Program. He added that the state hasincreased funding for grades K-12 by $500 million during the lastfour years while funding institutions of higher learning at theirhighest level since 2001 while giving them the largest singleincrease in state history.

Reeves also used his meteoric rise in state politics as anexample of seizing opportunity. He became the first Republican toclaim the office, the youngest elected official in the state andthe youngest state treasurer in the U.S. when he was elected to hisfirst political office in 2003 in a field of three Democrats, threeRepublicans and an independent.

“Those first few phone calls I made, there were a lot ofnaysayers,” he said, citing his age and lack of experience inpublic office. “But, we made our plan and we worked our tailoff.”

Reeves, who has family in Lincoln County, took a leave ofabsence from his job and his wife quit hers so the couple couldfocus on the campaign.

The plan worked, he said. He eventually won with 53 percent ofthe vote in the general election.

“In life there are always going to be naysayers … and I’m hereto tell you tonight that no matter what you decide to do in life,if you have a dream, plan and are willing to work for that dreamyou can accomplish anything,” Reeves said.

And, he added, the delegates were not too young to begin theirplanning, especially for a career in politics.

“2007 is an election year, of course. So, you really have anopportunity this year to participate in campaigns,” Reeves said.”Pick your favorite candidate and go to work for them. It’s anawesome opportunity, but also an awesome responsibility.”

Following his presentation, the state treasurer fieldedquestions from the delegates on a myriad of subjects ranging fromcombating identity fraud, the possibility of a state lotterysystem, the national issue of checks and balances among thedifferent branches of government sparked by the recent rise ofactivist judges and personal sacrifices made to hold office.

Boys State politics arose with the final question during theperiod as delegates prepared to elect their officers after Reevesspeech.

When a delegate closed the question and answer period by askingwhether Reeves was a Federalist or Nationalist when he attendedBoys State, the state treasurer admitted he had not been interestedin politics when in high school, but urged the delegates not to letpolitics cloud their opinions of what was right when debating theissues.

“It’s OK to talk about being a Nationalist or Federalist now,but after the election you should remember that we’re allMississippians here and we need to do what’s right forMississippi,” he said.