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Congress goes to summer camp

By Staff | Aug 7, 2009

Now that Congress has left Washington for the August recess, they certainly have a lot to think about during their “vacation.”

I have a proposal that before they hit their home states to listen to their voters, relax and recover from a strenuous battle over bailouts, Wall Street debacles, and healthcare, the senators and representatives should go to summer camp. I know that might sound silly at first. But when you really think about it, it might do us all a world of good because there are some very valuable life lessons learned at summer camp.

Campers learn such attributes as appreciating differences, responsibility, respecting authority, and accountability. They also learn about sportsmanship, independence and self-confidence. Summer camp can also teach children to appreciate their families. These are lessons that all of us could use a little reminder on now and then.

While I wasn’t really cut out for camp, there were aspects I loved about the adventure and life lessons I took away from it. I went to camp every summer from second grade on. I’m glad I gave it a go and will happily send my tots off to camp in the future if they express interest. Hopefully, my daughter and son will learn some of the things I did.

One of the most important life lessons learned at camp is appreciating differences. Now tell me that members of Congress couldn’t benefit from this little lesson. Camp is all about learning to get along with 100 or so perfect strangers in some of the most primitive conditions, in 95 degree heat. And you had better learn to get along because you’re a long way from home.

Thankfully, not everyone at camp is the same. I made friends with girls I had nothing in common with and learned how to look at things from their perspectives. Let’s say that Senator Ted Kennedy had to bunk with Senator Orrin Hatch. Something tells me that these two gentlemen would have a better understanding of each other’s differences if they had to rough it at summer camp together.

Summer campers also learn responsibility. Without Mom and Dad to assist, they learn to clean their plates, make their bed, and dress themselves. Nobody likes KP duty, but you learn to work together with strangers for the common good. Maybe the senators and representatives could take it much further and learn how to responsibly spend money without strings attached and treat everyone fairly, no matter how rich or poor.

Learning to respect authority at summer camp is another great lesson. Although parents were not around to keep us in line, counselors did the trick. When they spoke, we listened and did as we were told. Now just simply replace the word “counselors” with “voters” and let the members of Congress learn to respect the wishes of who is really in charge.

Another wonderful lesson learned at summer camp is accountability. Cabin inspections and team competitions showed us the value of accountability in a group setting. This one would have obvious benefits for our lawmakers. No more excuses about infidelity, questionable business practices, and other indiscretions.

Members of Congress could also learn sportsmanship at summer camp. I may not be the athletic type, but all of the group sports at camp taught me to be kind to both my opponents and my teammates – win or lose.

And lastly, our lawmakers could learn so many things, but one of the most important lessons is that family counts. It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. The last day of camp was the saddest as friends hugged goodbye. But I couldn’t wait to see my family and spend time catching up on the car ride home. Friends come and go, but family ties last forever, and there’s nothing like the secure feeling of family after a week of roughing it. Makes you learn to appreciate your parents and all they do for you. Makes you appreciate your home and all the conveniences. Makes you realize that your family might not be so bad after spending a week with smelly, snoring, scary campers.

Now after reading all my reasons for sending our members of Congress to summer camp, it doesn’t sound like such a ridiculous idea after all, does it? Now where should we send them?

Mullally is a Tribune writer.

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