Thursday, October 7, 2004

Group aims at civic literacy

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

HEBRON - When Northern Kentucky native Trey Grayson ran last year for Secretary of State he promised to try and improve civic education and increase voter participation.

Grayson, the Boone County Republican who was elected to office in November, took a step this week toward living up to that pledge.

Grayson, state Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Crescent Springs, other legislators, educators, judges and others participated in a day-long Summit on Civic Literacy that was held at Northern Kentucky University's METS corporate training center in Boone County.

"This summit represents an excellent start to revising the declining participation by young Kentuckians in the democratic process," Grayson said.

"The results of this summit will allow us to present legislators with a path to improved civic participation among Kentucky's youngest citizens," he said.

Among those making speeches and presentations was Gov. Ernie Fletcher, former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, who served as vice chairman of the 911 Commission, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Donald Wintersheimer of Covington and Campbell District Court Judge Karen Thomas.

Sponsors included the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, the Kentucky Department of Education and NKU's Scripps Howard Center for Civic Literacy.

Westwood sponsored legislation that created the summit in conjunctions with Grayson's office. Information gleaned at the event will be complied into a report and presented to the General Assembly with recommendations on how civic literacy can be improved.

Owen County lawyer Marcus Carey attended the summit.

"People who derive all the benefits of this society need to understand the responsibilities that go hand and hand with those benefits," Carey said. "This is the perfect opportunity to educate a whole new generation of kids with regard to the responsibilities they have."

NKU President Dr. James Votruba said the summit was a "wonderful" opportunity to reverse a trend of "diminished civic participation by our citizens."

"You've got to plant the seeds of citizenship early in order for them to bloom," he said. "That's why getting middle school kids, elementary kids to be focused is good. I don't think it's ever too early."



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