Some Grand Strand students were treated Wednesday to Rice Krispies treats, a visit from a U.S. Congressman and a short Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation.

About 200 eighth-graders packed into the Ocean Bay Middle School auditorium to hear Rep. Tom Rice speak Thursday as part of their “Careers and Leadership” speaker series. Rice was the inaugural speaker.

Rice kicked off the talk with a brief history lesson about how the founding fathers sacrificed everything — even their lives — for the right to a democracy.

“The most precious thing to them, the thing they were trying to protect, was freedom,” Rice said. “That’s what they were all fighting for.”

Fighting for those freedoms should still be on politicians’ minds, according to a few students.

“The most important part of government is protecting the people and the country,” said eighth-grader Elizabeth Gatley.

“And protecting the freedom of the people,” Ela Ender, a fellow classmate, added.

Rice spent part of his lecture reminding students of the founding fathers' intent to provide a better country for themselves and “their posterity” — as described in the Constitution — and students should appreciate the opportunities given to them. By setting up a democratic republic, rather than a kingdom, founders fostered an environment that promotes growth and competition.

“We’re the most wealthy country in the world, the most free country,” Rice said. “Me and you, we’re the beneficiaries of the founders' sacrifices.”

Jade Crooks, 13, took Rice’s words to heart.

“Since we live in the land of opportunities, then why not make an opportunity to get what you want,” Crooks said.

Most students could name all three branches of the U.S. government, though some were unclear about their purposes. Brooke Caboli, an eighth-grader, said she didn’t know everything about the federal government, but knew one of the most hotly debated issues: how to spend the federal budget.

“I think money is important to everybody,” Caboli said. “And the government is important, because it handles that stuff.”

Rice’s talk was part of the school’s “Careers and Leadership” series that aims to expose students to outstanding individuals who represent the finest in their areas of business, industry, professions, education, professional sports and performance. Rice said he hoped to give the students a better understanding of America’s history and how the founding fathers’ decisions affect students’ everyday lives.

“When you talk about what our founding fathers went through to give us the precious freedom that we enjoy and the prosperity that freedom gives us, we may understand the sacrifices that these people made,” Rice said.

He said he was impressed by what the students already knew about the government and how easily some could name the three branches of government.

“They were very knowledgeable,” Rice said. “If they can work hard and stay smart, in this land of opportunities, they can accomplish anything they want.”

Rice closed the lecture by describing how a skinny, tall Austrian wanted to become a bodybuilder, so he made his way to the U.S. and won two World Bodybuilding Championships. Then married a Kennedy. Then became governor of California.

In his best Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation, Rice encouraged the kids to “never let the naysayers get you down.”

Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0377 or follow her on Twitter @Claire_TSN.


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