ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted brought his statewide "Grads Vote Ohio" tour to Belmont County, Thursday afternoon.
Husted spoke to a number of St. Clairsville High upperclass students in the Middle School auditorium. The secretary urged those who have recently or are about to turn 18 years of age to become registered voters.
"Taking part in America's voting process will be your first step in our democracy," Husted explained. "In our great country, freedom and democracy walk hand in hand, though they're not always necessarily the same."
T-L Photo/RICH GIBSON
OHIO Secretary of State Jon Husted was presented a commemorative ‘Red Devil Pride’ t-shirt by sophomore students Lauren Figura (left) and Dana Bernard during Thursday’s ‘Grads Vote Ohio’ assembly in the Middle School auditorium.
Husted cited ongoing atrocities in Syria where radical government terrorist factions are responsible for killing thousands. "Citizens there are fighting for things (you and I) take for granted every day," Husted advised. "By exercising your right to vote as a U.S. citizen, you're helping preserve our constitutional right for freedom."
Husted described recent visits abroad to China and India where population numbers are a staggering 2.5 billion. "I witnessed hundreds of school kids in over-crowed busses hanging out windows in stifling heat," the secretary observed. "There are millions (around the globe) who don't have the same access we're accustomed to here in this country."
Husted spoke of modest upbringings in a small northwest Ohio community and his eventual rise to holding one of the most prestigious titles in Ohio government.
"My first goal was to become a college football coach," noted Husted, an All-American defensive back at the University of Dayton. "I was actually offered an assistant's post at Toledo (University). At the same time, I had been hired to manage a congressional campaign."
Husted turned down the coaching offer and remained on the political trail. "We actually lost that congressional race, but I made a decision to remain active and haven't regretted it since," he stated.
A Republican, Husted, the state's chief elections officer, indicated he will not officially endorse (expected) presidential nominee Mitt Romney to avoid a "perceived conflict of interest."
Husted later fielded questions from students, discussing a number of topics from government aid regarding student loans to the United States' current and future quest to compete in a global economy.
The secretary singled out a growing U.S. national debt ($16 trillion) as a monumental task facing legislators from both sides of the aisle.
"(In the end), people must have confidence in our democracy. The integrity of our system must always be protected," he stressed.
Husted initiated the "Grads Vote Ohio" program in the spring of 2011. According to the secretary, he has spoken to approximately 10,000 Ohio high school students during that period.
Gibson may be reached at email@example.com