In August 2011, former Pages, Page staff, and Members of Congress were all surprised and distressed to learn that House leadership had decided to cancel one of the oldest traditions in the House chamber – the House Page Program. The decision was made behind closed doors and with practically no consultation with decision-makers outside of Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi’s offices.
Program Reinstatement Advocacy
Today, the Capitol Page Alumni Association continues robust efforts – in public and behind the scenes – to advocate for new ways for high school students to participate in the day-to-day proceedings of the House. The Association is working through all the practical and political issues that must be resolved to ensure that young people again have the opportunity to have a hands-on educational experience in the House, akin to that which we all experienced as Pages. As former Page and political commentator Jonathan Turley said, “the greatest resource and protection for the Page academy can be found in its alumni.”
The Alumni Association has been inspired by the strong reaction from all corners of American public life since the program ended. Pages and those who have not served recognize the importance of bringing young people back into the House. Four years before the 2011 termination of the program, the Congressional Research Service noted that the elimination of the Page Programs “could have an impact that reaches far beyond the program itself.” Former House Historian Raymond Smock commented that the decision was “a diminishing of the kind of institutional glue that makes it possible for that place to be civil.” The U.S. News and World Report poignantly asked: “if we want to instill in young people a faith in government and a respect for public service, why get rid of the Page Program?”
Since 2011, several members of Congress have echoed former Congressman Dan Boren’s sentiment that “these young people remind us of our responsibilities to the folks back home.” In fact, House Resolution 397 – introduced weeks after the termination of the program – garnered 41 co-sponsors from members of both parties.
What You Can Do
Every Page is invited to participate in the Association’s advocacy efforts. We are grateful to each of you who has gotten involved on an individual basis, particularly by reaching out personally to Members. If your sponsor is still in office, consider a letter or phone call today! Congressmen and women who sponsored Pages have a unique and meaningful sense of the value of young Pages working in the House.
The Association will be widely sharing its documentary film, entitled “Democracy’s Messengers,” which highlights the unparalleled experiences of Pages and makes a strong case why young people are needed back in the House. The Association recognizes that we will need the support of both Pages and non-pages to generate momentum in Washington. This film aims to invigorate those whose lives may not have been touched on a personal level by the Page experience. Please contact us if you would like to host a viewing in your town of this 30-minute film.
If you have questions or need information to help compose a letter or call, please write or contact the association and a member of the board will assist you.
2011 news reports on the decision to shutter the House Page Program:
August 19th Politico Article about the House Page class of 1985 and its efforts to restore the House Page Program.
August 8th Washington Post Article presents several voices who are dismayed by the decision, including Eyvana Bengochea (House, 2010), Jerry Papazian (House, 1972), and Congressman John Dingell (House, 1942)
August 8th News hits the AP Wire, quoting Jerry Papazian (House, 1972) and John Dingell (House, 1942)
August 8th New York Times Article quotes John Dingell (House, 1942), Jonathan Turley (House, 1977), and Jessica Wilkerson (House, 2007)
More articles include:
Editorials in response to the closure announcement:
Former House page Zack Stanton (House, 2002), writes in the Detroit Free Press and calls the Page Program “one of the best incubators America has for raising young leaders.”
Congressman and Former Senate Page Dan Boren responds by calling the decision drastic and unfounded
Reporter and former page Jamie Dupree (House, 1981) writes about the end of the program in the Atlanta Journal Constitution