By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
Tar Heel Girls State Speakers Encourage and Inspire
Speakers at the 71st Tar Heel Girls State encouraged and inspired 290 young women who spent the week on the Catawba College campus.
Appearing on Thursday morning in Keppel Auditorium were Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Janet Ward Black, a Kannapolis native and Greensboro attorney.
Seeing women in leadership roles sets an important example, Marshall said. She noted that such women are in short supply in North Carolina.
"Our work is still cut out for us," said Marshall, the 15th secretary of state. "It is possible for us to be the president of the United States. It is possible for us to be anything we want to be."
The state office of the secretary of state is different from its national counterpart. Marshall characterized the office as the "heartbeat of the business community," the place where businesses are formed. Her office facilitates the flow of capital through the state.
Corporations are either started through loans or investors, she said. Any kind of loan you think of, she said, is regulated through her office — from appliances to furniture to heavy construction equipment to movies filmed in the Tar Heel State.
Her office has also taken on Wall Street, returning $1 billion to North Carolina investors.
The office is charged with three main responsibilities: formation of business, commercial loans and securities industry regulation. The office also cracks down on counterfeit goods.
"I spend a lot of time discouraging people from buying fake items," Marshall said. Even with medicine, she said, "If we can make it, they can fake it."
Marshall told the young women that buying a knock-off purse is essentially "stealing from a lot of people."
Marshall's office brings in revenues of $80 million per year, mostly through registration fees, mostly around $100 to $200. "That's a hard way to get $80 million," she admitted.
Just as she champions the facets of her office, Marshall champions women in public service.
"Finding that right balance between home, your soul and those you are responsible for and to is a challenge," she explained. "Public service must also be satisfying to other families as well."
In answering questions from the young women, Marshall said she got interested in public service when she discovered her husband would have to co-sign for a business she owned.
"I was mad," she said. "That's when I decided to run."
Marshall has been secretary of state since 1997, having faced Richard Petty in that election.
She called her mom her biggest inspiration.
When asked what advice she'd share with the young audience, Marshall said this: "Develop a realistic game plan and get a good education to be able to work it. Set a high, achievable goal, get a good education and don't give up!"
Just as meeting with the young women was important to Marshall, it was important to Black, who made her 22nd appearance at Girls State.
Black was the county's first woman prosecutor, serving as an assistant district attorney in Rowan and Cabarrus counties from 1985 to 1988. She said it was one of the best jobs she ever had.
"I am proud to be a lawyer," said Black, who is principal and owner of Ward Black Law in Greensboro.
Black talked about how state and federal courts are set up, and how much it costs to house a prisoner in North Carolina ($40,000 a year). There are currently more than 40,000 people incarcerated — more than the population of Salisbury, Black noted.
With so many hours spent each day at work, Black encouraged the young women to find a career they loved.
Black talked about some of the cases she represented over the years, including people who had been killed or horribly disfigured by drunk drivers.
Black discussed equity pay, and the fact that women typically make 80 cents for every dollar men do.
"Think about what you want to do," Black said. "Find out who is the very best at it in your hometown and shadow them for two weeks."
She added, "There is power in you and you can achieve great things.
"Women are the majority — let's act like it!"
Area Girls Reflect on Their Week at Tar Heel Girls State
Imagine a week-long discussion of government including parliamentary procedure.
Pretty dull, huh?
Now throw in 290 screaming young women, all cheering enthusiastically for their own "cities."
Welcome to the 71st Tar Heel Girls State convention at Catawba College. Sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Girls State introduces rising high-school seniors to all aspects of government, from the duties of a city manager to introducing a bill.
It's an intense experience, say the local young ladies who attended the session this week.
"It's really hard core," Courtney Bradway of Rockwell said Thursday. "The first two days were really hard. It's gotten a lot better. It was overwhelming."
The 15 local girls attending all agree it's a good experience for their college resumés.
Margaret Kaufman of Salisbury is interested in political science and campaigns — the whole election process.
The convention is heavy on parliamentary procedure, the girls say.
"We speak it every day," said Carol Brown of Rockwell. "It's very in- depth. They don't let anything slide."
Anita Overstreet of Salisbury said she liked the fact that "anybody can get up in front of a group and speak, whether they have experience or not."
Marlee Murphy of Salisbury said that the self-nomination process helped increase self-esteem.
"You have to have the self-confidence to nominate yourself," Brown said.
"Everybody has the exact same qualifications," Overstreet added.
It's a challenge to find something unique, to set yourself apart from other candidates, said Raven Corbett of Rockwell.
Some girls have been legislative pages; others have had family members who participated in Girls State and knew what to expect.
The girls marveled at one participant who had thousands of hours of community service. "I don't know when she sleeps," said Jenna Bryan of Salisbury.
On Thursday, June 17, precinct and city elections had been completed, with state elections yet to come. Also on that day, 10 girls were chosen as nominees for Girls Nation, to be held in Washington, D.C. in July. Two finalists will be announced Saturday morning at the close of the event.
Kierra Perry of Salisbury came to Girls State because of future career aspirations. She either wants to study social work or crime scene investigation. "Any job I want has to do with government," she said.
The week was not without its lighter moments.
Although curfew was midnight, the girls stayed up much, much later.
"I had a dance party on my birthday," said Brandi Jones of Lexington, who turned 17 on Tuesday. "We've still got a bunch of cake."
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall could relate. The girls clustered around Marshall before she spoke in Keppel Auditorium. A couple of years ago, she said, she stayed up all night, watching a bill make its way through the legislature, afraid it would be killed. "I didn't think I had it in me," she told the group, "but I did."
Other local girls attending Girls State this week included: Krystal Gilmore, Spencer; April Honeycutt, Mount Ulla; Amanda Matlock, Woodleaf; Abby Kepley, Granite Quarry; Rena Ogle, Salisbury; and Katelyn Shuping, Salisbury.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn is a full-time student at Catawba College.
PHOTOS: Tar Heels Girls State 2010
71st Consecutive Session of Tar Heel Girls State Held at Catawba