Kathryn Lopez

And while it's creepy for a congressman to be crying at a congressional-page farewell speech, as Mark Foley did in 2002 -- it's also a little off, to be completely honest, for a teen to spend his youth on Capitol Hill. It's not natural! Play ball. Read the books you won't have the time to read the rest of your life. Spend time listening to the wisdom of your parents -- you won't have them forever. Get involved at school. Do some volunteer work. There will be time to indulge your political passions -- too much time, even! There will be time to spend on the House or Senate floor if you still think that's your calling in a few years. And you know what? You'll be a richer, deeper person for having spent more time in real America before you head for the Hill -- and the Beltway will be better for having a Renaissance you and not a kid who has wanted to be president since he was 12 and filled his resume accordingly.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are cool, worthwhile, educational aspects to paging. When I was a teen, I didn't page, but I took advantage of some summer programs my parents encouraged me to save up for. I met new friends and met congressmen (who, mercifully, didn't want to be my friends) and all the rest. To this day I recommend the bipartisan Washington Workshops Foundation and the conservative Young America's Foundation to parents, teachers and teenagers who ask for good D.C. opportunities for high-school and college students. But one week of immersion and playing Model Congress instead of watching repeats during July is a whole lot different than spending a semester as needless errand boy. So there are better alternatives out there for the prematurely political teen. We don't need congressional pages; we need kids to page their youth while they still have it.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.