U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was taking pictures with high school students Sunday after speaking to them at the Louisiana Youth Seminar when a teenage boy approached her and asked if she remembered him.
Landrieu, D-La., said she told the boy he did look familiar. The boy informed the senator that he had gone to Washington many years ago to lobby on behalf of Tourette’s syndrome sufferers.
Landrieu said that helped her remember the young man’s name. “He said, ‘I’m looking forward to sharing what I have with the delegates here and they’ll be more sensitive to my disability,’ ” Landrieu recalled after her speech.
Acceptance, self-confidence and communication are among the lessons that will be taught during the 42nd Louisiana Youth Seminar at LSU this week.
The Louisiana Youth Seminar is a coeducational high school leadership program that lasts for five days, said Andree Gonsoulin, a member of the seminar’s board of directors.
“It covers all facets of leadership, including communications, politics, political parties and a number of other facts that apply to real life in a very personal setting,” she said.
Landrieu spoke to the more than 300 participants during the opening convocation of the seminar in the Royal Cotillion Ballroom of LSU’s Student Union.
Landrieu, who participated in the event 40 years ago, told the crowd to use the sessions as a way to test their leadership skills and listen to others’ needs.
“Leaders are the ones that serve themselves last,” she said. “They’re the ones that serve everyone first.”
Landrieu also told the students to keep trying after failure. She recalled the heartbreak she went through after she lost the Louisiana governor’s race in 1995 before turning right back around and winning her U.S. Senate seat in 1996.
“After I win this next term, which will be my fourth term in the Senate, I’ll be the longest serving woman to ever serve in the Senate from Louisiana,” Landrieu told the crowd.
Landrieu is up for re-election in 2014.
Landrieu also joked with the children during her speech that they should be prepared to sleep very little at the seminar because of all the work they’ll be doing.
“Drink a lot of water, and eat when they offer you food,” Landrieu said, which elicited laughter.
Some campers have found enough energy to attend the seminar several times.
Morgan Jones, a senior-to-be at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, participated in Sunday’s forum for what she says was the third time.
Jones called the seminar her second home.
“Everyone is so welcoming,” she said. “All the counselors and JCs are amazing.”
Tre’ Foreman, a 17-year-old rising senior at Crowley High School, said he was also attending his third seminar.
Foreman said he enjoys the bonds he formed with the people he has met and the experience has helped him with his communication skills. He said he plans to have a career as either a broadcaster or a professional dancer.
“It helps you learn how to speak to people,” he said.
Landrieu said after her speech that the program has not changed much since she went through it, including the chants the staff members yelled as the students filed into the ballroom.
“All of the elections, the campaigns, the speaking, organizing, all those skills that you learn at a young age are just layered and layered and layered until you literally are running for the most important offices in the country,” Landrieu said. “But it really starts at this level.”