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Why Teen Eagles?
According to the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Oxford University Press, 2005,“The de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’: A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth; God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions; the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; and good people go to heaven when they die.”
What is Teen Eagles?
Teen Eagles, in affiliation with Eagle Forum, is a group of like-minded teenage students with a conservative view. The group exists to facilitate growth among students who have a basic Christian worldview and provide them with the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and experience by becoming involved in civic activities and the political process.
Today, young conservatives with Judeo-Christian values must be knowledgeable, independent thinkers in order to face the social and political environment of our world. More often than not, our young people enter into colleges and universities as lambs to the slaughter, unable to handle the full-scale frontal attack on their values and their faith.
Teen Eagles meet once a month for a couple of hours. We pre-select a topic to allow students time to prepare their thoughts on the issue. These topics include the National Popular Vote, illegal immigration, 2nd Amendment rights, Con-Con, the Equal Rights Amendment, DOMA, Sharia Law, national security, the possibility of an EMP strike, the federal healthcare mandates, and many more.
Most conservative students with conservative parents know what their parents believe about these issues, so they have just followed along with them. This will not be helpful when they are away at college or in the workforce and have to defend their position for the first time. It is not only important for them to know what they believe. Teen Eagles teaches them why they should believe it. Then we help them to develop their argument and learn to defend their position.
Once our Teens have furthered their skills, it’s time to put them to use. There is no better place to check your education than at the Capitol Building! We arrange for our Eagles to job shadow a state legislator for a day. They attend committee meetings, hear from constituents, and may even get to hear debates on the house or senate floor.
The Teen Eagles also select one piece of legislation to follow during the year. We watch it through its submission into subcommittee, through various committees, follow up on any amendments that may be attached, we schedule appointments with legislators, and lobby the bill. We watch the bill as it goes through both chambers, write letters to the editors of our local newspapers to educate the public concerning the passage of the bill, and we don’t rest until the governor has signed the bill into law. Of course, if it’s a bill we don’t like and that does not support our worldview, we will work diligently to defeat it!
According to our Teens
Sarah Jordan is a graduating senior in 2018:
In August of 2016 my mom made me go to my first Teen Eagles meeting. I didn’t want to go. I was exhausted, and I had homework for my other classes. There was really nothing I wanted less than to go talk about politics during the election. By the end of the night I loved Teen Eagles! There was debate that was educational, instead of emotional, like some of the debates I had with family members.
Fast forward to January of 2017. A few weeks before legislative session began, I was awakened early one morning, which I wasn’t happy about. But I forgot that pretty quickly when my mom told me that Mrs. Frances was asking me to be an intern with the president of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, Bobbie Patray. I remember my first day at the Capitol very clearly. In that one day I met everyone from the Secretary of Treasury, to Beth Harwell, the Speaker of the House. At the time I had no idea who they were, but I was excited nonetheless. The entire session was a great learning experience for me, one that I would never find anywhere else.
I wasn’t sure how 2018 could be as amazing as the 2017 session, but I soon found out. We got word early of a bill about medical marijuana that was scheduled for this year. So, the Teen Eagles did exactly what we normally did with controversial topics- research. Slowly, a few teens across the state became experts in different problems with the legalization of medical marijuana. In January, we spoke at the Tennessee Republican Assembly meeting to share our information. Late in the session, due in part to our lobbying efforts, the bill was defeated.
Teen Eagles made me go from not even wanting to think about the election, to staying up all night on election night; from not knowing who Beth Harwell was, to meeting her – and now she is running for governor. The most life-changing event, though, is that I decided to change my major in college from English, to Political Science with a pre-law concentration.
LauraBeth Morgan is a homeschooled high school Junior in 2018:
There's no proper way to explain my experience with Mrs. Bobbie Patray at the capitol these last few months. I could go on and on about the fun that I had, the happenings that happened, or the muscles I pulled sitting still; but I feel the most important thing to talk about were the moments I realized I was watching major events in my life, and in the lives of many others, take place. When I grasped that, I think I started to truly understand the impact our government has on our everyday life; and when I look back on those moments, those miracles, I recognize how much the entire experience with Tennessee Eagle Forum has influenced me, my views, and my outlook on the future.
A time I sincerely look back on as one of the first miracles we experienced was in the State Government Subcommittee on March 28th. Our bill, due to an unfortunate circumstance the week before, had been rolled to the final calendar of the subcommittee. If our bill, HB 2315, aka, our Anti-Sanctuary City bill, was not passed, it would be lost or dead in the subcommittee and we'd likely be unable to retrieve it. With that in mind, we were a little stressed out! And, as time dragged on, it became apparent that our bill was on its last legs as the subcommittee began to consider cutting the bill. But our hard work wasn't something to be taken lightly. A co-sponsor of our bill and member of the subcommittee, Representative Mary Littleton, spoke against the debate and defended the bill, driving the subcommittee to ultimately pass it to the full committee. Without her, the bill would have died where it was. With just one more voice added to the debate, the entire conversation swung around. Hearing her voice was a moment I understood that a single person can change everything, from saving a bill in a subcommittee to getting it moved all the way to the house floor.
These little miracles can happen in several ways. Mrs. Bobbie and I realized that plenty of times as we lobbied and fought for our bills! The smallest comment could completely change our schedule, from lobbying for our Municipal I.D. Card bill to running down the halls to catch wind of a horse-racing bill that had come out of nowhere. Yet every moment I spent going this way and that, trying to get a hold of one representative or another, was an absolute gift. Tennessee Eagle Forum allowed me to see what government really is - relationships, and a struggle to do what's right. I couldn't tell you how much energy I exerted sitting still, listening to debates in committee that were only getting more and more off topic. But it was all towards a greater goal -- to make a difference, to put forward a needed change, to make things better. Eagle Forum allowed me the opportunity to participate in our government and see what it's like, up close and personal. It's influenced my life in more ways than one, causing me to truly understand and think about how my words and actions can push me, and others, down a path that cannot be changed. I could not be more thankful for the opportunity Eagle Forum gave me.
Malia Curtsinger is a graduating Senior in 2018:
From the age of twelve, the Teen Eagles has been a big part of my life and helped develop my political views. The Teen Eagles offered a wonderful opportunity for me to be surrounded by like-minded teenagers eager to make a change in their local and state communities. The opportunities the Teen Eagles has offered to me as been incredibly memorable such as attending the Educational Policy Conference in St. Louis and participating in many local campaigns. Teen Eagles has helped my social skills in professional settings by giving me the chance to shadow several legislators in Tennessee.
In 2017, I had the chance, through the Teen Eagles, to intern for the president of Tennessee Eagle Forum, Bobbie Patray. This experience has helped me to learn, hands on, the lobbying and effort put into bills and has helped me see the process behind it all. As I enter the hectic and bias college world this coming fall, I feel that the Tennessee Teen Eagles has prepared me with the ability and confidence to stand up for what I believe and not to be afraid to speak up for what’s right.
Haley Collins* is a high school Freshman in 2018, and has been a part of the Teen Eagle program for 5 years (even before she was a teen!):
The Knoxville, Tennessee Teen Eagle Program meets once a month to discuss and study current issues, learn from conservative speakers, and practice effective communication skills in order to share the truth about these issues with others. At the beginning of fall, we picked the legalization of marijuana, as a current issue to study. During the last months of 2017, we did thorough research on the effects of marijuana, the impact of the legalization of marijuana, and the industry that is poised to exploit the trend of legalizing marijuana. This also forced us to decipher real news from fake news and learning the art of media and biases.
During the legislative period this year, we learned how to lobby against the Tennessee marijuana bill, HB 1749, because, based on our research, we came to the conclusion that marijuana is an extremely unsafe, gateway drug.
Also concerning state legislation, each TN Teen Eagle got the opportunity to ‘shadow’ a legislator. They pick one legislator based on their passions and interests. From there they read and develop an opinion on every bill that legislator has sponsored. On a busy day, they go to the capitol and follow this legislator for the entire day. This is one of the more unique experiences that the TN Teen Eagles receive. They create relationships with many legislators, their staff, and lobbyist, as well as creating a love for the legislative process.
We are also learning the process of elections. We learned how to screen each candidate by looking at their voting records and their beliefs on issues. We also learned in depth the roles and responsibilities of each position. Most of the Teen Eagles have begun researching candidates and campaigning for them. We are looking forward to the ‘Long Hot Summer’ and campaigning for our candidates. In the end, our Teen Eagle group has the same mission as the other groups. We want to equip the youth of today, with truth for tomorrow!
*Note: Haley Collins has recently be given an internship on the Bill Lee for Governor campaign.