Published by The Prince George’s Sentinel
Genea Harrison couldn’t sleep Monday night. The 8-year-old was too excited. She was likened to Beyoncé and sworn in as Maryland Governor by Gov. Martin O’Malley at the state house Tuesday morning.
Harrison became Maryland’s first-ever “Governor for a Day” on July 2 after her essay on why she wanted to be Maryland’s governor was selected among more than 200 submissions.
“I am proud that Governor O’Malley picked me as Maryland’s first ever ‘Governor for a Day’ because I believe girls can take charge too,” Harrison said. “It means that other girls like me can become whatever they want.”
The contest was created to encourage young women to pursue careers in public service. Harrison had never really shown an interest in politics or becoming a government official, her mother Angie Runyon said.
But the soon-to-be fourth grade student, who entered the state house wanting to be either a science teacher or a fashion designer, was not the same one who walked down its steps, holding the railing as photographers’ shutters sounded.
“I’m learning today how to deal with the press,” Harrison said. “I’ll try to put myself in the governor election.”
The Rosa L. Parks Elementary School student was already making plans at a women’s caucus meeting with legislators and administrative officials, including Maryland Delegate Tawanna P. Gaines, D-22, and Prince George’s County school board member Amber Waller of District 3.
“Your jobs are really great and I hope next time, when I’m older, I will try to run for governor. And if you still work here, I’ll give you the same amount and maybe extra.”
Harrison met with Taiwan Ambassador Pu-Tsung King, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and a speech-writing team. She gave an inaugural address and tip-toed at the podium in front of a packed room of educators to talk about protecting the Chesapeake Bay.
When asked what she would like to see with the bay, the 8-year-old did not hesitate. It was something she learned about in her favorite class – science.
“To see it cleaner and no dead fish when I’m swimming,” she said. “I learned in science (that) almost everybody in my class this year goes to the Chesapeake Bay to swim for the summer, and my teachers, so I think I should clean it when they go.”
Harrison was given a Prince George’s County pin and a dragon-looking marionette, but she said the “most coolest” thing she got was not something she could put in a backpack. It was giving a speech with her family and the press in the audience and the governor by her side.
“If I was governor for a day, I would put the people first and think about what is most important to them and make the state of Maryland a better and safer place to live,” Harrison said.
“I am so impressed by Genea and her passion for making Maryland a better place,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress.
Harrison talked about creating jobs, providing job training workshops, offering more free after-school activities and improving public schools by making class sizes smaller.
“I support Genea’s vision as governor to improve education, invest in our first responders, protect the environment and ensure the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md.-4.
Harrison’s essay was inspired by the governor’s website and her own experience in the classroom where she has noticed a difference in smaller class sizes.
“She came up with the ideas on how she could make a difference,” said Runyon, who teared with pride as her daughter delivered the speech.
For O’Malley, difference makes a difference.
“She (Genea) represents both the progress that we’ve made as a state in acknowledging and harnessing the awesome ability of strong, smart women to make a big difference in moving our state forward,” O’Malley said. “Our diversity is our greatest strength.”