Eliminating the page program: Drastic and unfounded

Nothing can compare to the experience of being a page. Many of the students who come here to serve have never been outside of their hometowns. The opportunity to work for Congress, live steps from the Capitol building, and experience our legislative process firsthand is something unlike any other.

{mosads}While there have been some unfortunate events in the history of the program, for the most part it has been an asset to Congress. Former pages have gone on to become today’s leaders, both in government and the private sector. Bill Gates, former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) are only a few examples. 

I understand the need to cut our expenses in Washington, and members have already reduced our office’s expenses like small businesses are doing all across America, but eliminating the page program is a mistake that will harm the institution of Congress as a whole. Further, there are ways to reduce the cost of the program without ending it entirely. For example, the page salary could be reduced. The pages I have spoken to do not come to Washington for the experiences rather than to earn money, and would gladly do so without compensation.

Leadership has also cited changes of technology in their decision to end the page program. They argue that pages are no longer necessary to deliver messages in the digital age. While the role of pages may have changed and will continue to change in the future, I do not think this is a reason to end their historical presence in our halls.

Rather, we should find new ways to use their skills, such as making them available to offices for tasks similar to those completed by interns. They could be on call to assist offices with phones, tours of the Capitol building, and special projects when full time interns are unavailable. The page program is almost as old as Congress itself, and it would be a travesty to end the program rather than update and innovate it. 

I am also disappointed that members of Congress and the public were not consulted in this decision, and that the study that the decision was based on has not been released for our review. This is an immense decision.  Given the chance I would have expressed my opposition from the outset, and I know many of my colleagues would have done the same. 

I am calling on all former pages and anyone who believes that we should save this fundamental program to call Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi’s office and ask that they reverse this short-sided decision. This is just the beginning of our campaign.

This Congress is not the one that my father or grandfather served in. It is impersonal and overly partisan. Ending the page program would make the Congress even more impersonal.  I hope to reverse this decision so that future students have the chance to go through some of the same experiences in Washington and inside Congress that inspired me to pursue the journey that brought me here today.  

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