Madeleine Nemergut: Page program is a chance to see good government

Columnist spent a week inside the Minnesota State Capitol -- the "land of 10,000 bills."

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During my week as a high school page at the Minnesota House of Representatives, I learned more than how to walk fast in dress shoes – I discovered a myriad of lessons that helped me gain perspective on both Minnesota and politics.

In medieval times, pages were low-class individuals that attended to the nobles and knights, often serving as messengers at court. Fortunately, the role has evolved to fit the modern era; today, pages are still messengers, but paid, non-partisan employees who primarily deliver documents and written messages to representatives during legislative sessions.

In 1975, Minnesota established the second high school page program in the United States, allowing high school juniors to observe and actively participate in the legislative process.

On Feb. 13, I hustled into the Minnesota State Capitol with zero expectations. I had never set foot in the capitol before, so when I entered the rotunda I was astonished by its polished elegance. Inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City, the sleek Italian marble pillars and dramatic Beaux-Art style murals transported me to the neoclassical era.

However, its beauty extends beyond the stone, as each detail carries importance. L' Étoile du Nord (The North Star), Minnesota’s motto, has a presence in every area – in the carefully carved Minnesota granite floor tiles, in the delicately placed lines to form the eight points in the glass windows, and in the polished brass on the Minnesota seal. Everywhere seems to have been deliberately planned — even the public bathroom stalls are constructed from polished stone! Little did I know, the building was just the beginning of a life-changing experience.


Currently, the Minnesota legislature is held by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, creating a DFL “trifecta” by having a majority in the House and Senate and holding the governor’s office. This unique structure allows the majority party to have a dynamic, direct agenda, trying to pass as many bills as possible.

During a usual legislative session (January through May), roughly 9,000 bills are introduced. However, in the 2023 session, over 5,000 bills have already been presented, in less than three months, with over two months remaining. It is the fastest-paced legislative session in Minnesota history, and will likely be one of the most consequential due to the wide-ranging nature of the legislation.

Additionally, the state currently has a $17.5 billion surplus to spend, making the 93rd Minnesota legislature not only an intense but critical session, impacting both present and future generations.

In recent years, the news and society have become increasingly partisan. As a high-school student, I have witnessed combative behavior over political and ideological differences in teenagers due to an unwillingness to listen and a lack of mutual respect for differing views. Expecting vitriol between parties at the Capitol, I was shocked to mostly find the opposite.

During our meetings with several representatives, from both sides of the aisle, almost every one discussed the necessity of bipartisanship, curating positive relationships, and having respect for all individuals.

Although much of politics revolves around how individuals differ, there is one cohesive factor – politicians truly desire to enact positive change in their communities and society as a whole. To create positive change, every side must be consulted in an effort to find a middle ground. Individuals have different experiences, knowledge bases, and fresh ideas that can be overlooked if not asked to become stakeholders in the process.

Without considering others, positive change is not enacted for the common good – merely for one narrow minority. The news constantly amplifies the most decisive voices, but the Page Program allowed me to discover that the majority of positive legislation stems from those willing to compromise and acknowledge differing opinions. As Abraham Lincoln once proclaimed, “A house divided cannot stand” – a notion that must be applied to our future.

From art history to the political affairs of Minnesota, the Page Program broadened my worldview and allowed me to uncover the principles of creating positive advancement in every area of life – for that, I am incredibly thankful.


Madeleine Nemergut is a junior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, .

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