It was spring of my junior year of high school, and I was sitting on the stage of an auditorium at Mississippi State University for the annual Boys State Convention.
I looked up and began hearing a younger gentleman named Jeramey Anderson, the youngest African-American elected to a state legislature in United States history, speak about reaching for your dreams and ways to make a difference in your local community, even at a young age.
He opened my eyes and provided insight into something I didn’t realize before: Even the common man, no matter his age, can run for office, win and make a lasting impact in his community. He showed me that the stereotypes of running for public office had become obsolete and the political climate was changing across America.
Before Anderson’s speech at Boys State, I had been involved in student government but never saw the importance of politics at a post-graduate, professional level. His speech changed my perspective on civic engagement at the local, state and national levels.
I discovered that it’s not just the president or your senators who make a difference; even our state legislators have a lasting impact on our daily lives.
Following his speech, I reached out to Rep. Anderson about getting involved, possibly even engaging in an internship. The following fall, he gave me, a senior in high school, the opportunity to get involved in policy research and understand the day-to-day life of a state legislator.
And let me tell you: It was the greatest experience ever. To see a man, at only 22 years old, make such a significant impact in his community was empowering, to say the least.
Following his legislative initiatives in Jackson throughout the past few years and his involvement with organizations at all civic levels, I have come to find that Rep. Anderson of Moss Point is a model public servant whom future state legislators, both Democratic and Republican, should look up to.
His level of engagement and passion for the community are second to none, especially his recent work with Rep. Toby Barker, a Republican from Hattiesburg. They established the Mississippi Future Caucus, a caucus of Republican and Democratic state legislators under the age of 40.
Anderson’s role speaks volumes to his character and passion for his state to end partisanship in the legislature and move in a cohesive, rather than divisive, direction.
He truly cares for the citizens of Moss Point, the state of Mississippi and our great nation. I know for a fact he will continue to make strides in the work he is doing at the state level.
The lessons he taught me through his speech, as well as my internship, gave me the drive to pursue public policy and the desire to give back to my local community.
He taught me to engage in political reasoning rather than political affiliation. Cooperation rather than division. Understanding rather than a lack of sympathy.
And for this, I thank him.
Rep. Anderson is a rising star in the legislature and one whom I encourage all citizens, Republican and Democrat, to follow and learn lessons from on becoming a proactive leader in their communities.
Nestor Delgado is a sophomore public policy leadership major from Pascagoula.