Engaged young people are the future of politics and an ambitious 12-year-old from Grovetown is leading that charge, with an eye (for now) on the state Capitol.
“I’ve always had a big interest in the decisions that are made by our elected officials,” said C.J. Pearson, the student body president at Columbia Middle School. “The decisions that are made today will have a big impact on the future generations.”
C.J. founded Young Georgians in Government and serves as executive director. The group is pushing a bill to lower the minimum age to run for a Georgia House seat from 21 to 18 and from 25 to 21 in the Senate and expects sponsorship in both chambers from state Republican legislators Ben Harbin, Barry Fleming, Barbara Sims, Josh McKoon, Rusty Kidd and others, he said.
Young Georgians in Government, with teen field representatives in 15 counties, Conrad Close as political director, Alan Hill as north regional director and Sam Heffner as Richmond County chairman, is “completely nonpartisan,” C.J. said.
“I’m a Republican, with strong Libertarian leanings,” he said. “I believe that our party, the Republican Party, has taken the biggest steps toward protecting those rights that our Founding Fathers have given us, and protected us with a less intrusive, involved government than the Democratic Party.”
C.J., whose family moved from Augusta to Columbia County two years ago, said his parents support his work despite differing with his views.
“My parents, they’re Democrats,” he said. “While we disagree politically, they’re very supportive of young people, of all people getting involved in the process … It doesn’t really matter which party you get involved in, as long as you get involved, and they’re very supportive of that.”
C.J. said he doesn’t expect his values to change as he grows up, but rather expects his party to shift in response to necessary criticism.
“As far as right now, the party has already shifted,” he said. “I believe that you need to be critical of both parties. If you’re going to get productivity out of Washington, out of Atlanta, out of your local government, you’ve got to get critical.”
He readily criticizes his own party, while “most conservatives now aren’t as critical of their own party. They think that our party is perfect and that’s a downright blatant lie, that’s pure ignorance.”
As an example of that criticism, C.J. said Republicans will accept same-sex marriage, something he supports, within 10 years. The younger generation has “generally been taught to treat everyone equally, no matter who you are,” he said. “If that’s the way you are, then that’s the way you are.”
His faith, lies behind his pro-life stance, but his strongest guiding force is “the vision of my founding fathers,” C.J. said. “Limited government means limited government; there’s no way around it.”
C.J. said voters should decide if a candidate will represent their interests, and not focus on their age or education, adding that young people’s daily lives provide worthwhile experiences just as relevant “as the encounters that older people have.” He offered the growing use of marijuana by children and teens as an example.
“I do believe in limited government, but I also believe in protecting the health of our young people and the futures of our young people,” C.J. said.