Greetings, Engaged Citizens! My name is Will Zwart, and I am a 22-year-old screenwriter and volunteer for Convention of States. In early August, I participated in Patriot Academy’s National Leadership Congress in Texas. COS’s partnership with Rick Green's Patriot Academy brought his organization onto my radar.
This week-long event was a thrill ride through history, politics, campaigning, social issues, networking, legislating, and even a stand-up comedy act! The purpose of these simulated legislative sessions, of which there are several in the U.S., is "to provide the leadership laboratory in which Patriots are forged with the Principles, Strategies, and Skills to lead their generation and our nation with character and courage."
Day one, I arrived in Austin, Texas in the afternoon in August. So yes, God bless air conditioning. We were all bussed out to Rick Green's ranch for welcome and food, after which the 120 students were all divided up into committees. I was on the Margaret Thatcher team. After some field games, all of which I lost, we returned to the hotel, where I met my roommate, and then immediately went to bed. Jet lag is awesome!
Day two saw us up at 6:30 am, breakfasted, and back in bed at 7:00! Well, that's what we wished for. Everyone had to be down in the hotel lobby by 7:20 sharp, and then it was off to the Texas Capitol for a morning of lectures, followed by some lectures, and just before lunch, a series of lectures. Although numerous, they were deeply informative. In that one week, I felt like I gained more wisdom and became better equipped to defend the principles of liberty than in four years of college!
The highlight of day two was Campaign-for-a-Day, in which we were all paired off into teams to canvass for a fake political candidate. My COS Comms team experience served me well, and our man won! That evening, we each received our golf ball, a physical representation of our "character," which had to be held the entire week. Every so often, someone would drop theirs, and there'd be a tremendous dive for it!
Days three, four, and five were all very similar. After capitol walk, breakfast, and speeches, we would pair off into committees and hear each other's bills. Everyone had to write at least one bill, and they even let us use the actual committee rooms, teaching us the process, vernacular, and response to opposition. While enjoyable, this paled in comparison to the floor session! All 120 students gathered in the Texas State House of Representatives to present, debate, lobby, and vote on bills. Of the 149 bills filed, only 10 were passed, but more importantly, we learned how to pass them.
Day six saw the end of committee sessions and the graduation banquet. After a hearty dinner where I met a certain Mr. Meckler in the food line, we all signed the Declaration of Independence! At least a very convincing copy of it, and then "passed the torch of freedom," a ceremony in which 120 candles are lit from the same torch.
The last day saw the final floor session, and I was on the first shuttle out. I also discovered on my return flight that airplane seats are a great place to bring up COS!
I believe what the leaders at Patriot Academy are doing makes God proud. At Patriot Academy, people not only tolerated, but actually wanted to hear about my politics, opinions, and views. Everyone shared the same values and zeal for America, for freedom, and for God. We wanted to fight for those things, and be taught how. We were told to speak up, not shut up, and we were educated - not indoctrinated - on solid, applicable truths.
I believe that week will be one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences of my life, and unless it's God's will otherwise, there's no way that I'm NOT going back next year, and the year after that, and again, supporting Patriot Academy for as long as I can.
This is God giving us wisdom through Rick Green and all the fantastic leaders at Patriot Academy, and I'm grateful that God gave me such an opportunity to learn about Him, His truth, and this great nation He has given us.
Learn more about Patriot Academy for yourself and your loved ones. Learn more about Article V of our Constitution and Convention of States Action here.