March 21, 2008

Lt. Gov. Skillman encourages teens to make wise, healthy choices

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman speaks at the 14th annual awards luncheon for the archdiocesan A Promise to Keep peer mentor chastity program. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman speaks at the 14th annual awards luncheon for the archdiocesan A Promise to Keep peer mentor chastity program. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

It’s critically important to make wise and healthy choices in daily life, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman told 350 Catholic high school students from central and southern Indiana on March 6, and it’s equally important to wait until the time is right to make major life choices.

“Don’t steal from your future,” she emphasized in her keynote address during the 14th annual awards luncheon for the archdiocesan A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality peer mentor chastity program at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (See also: Peer mentors discuss value of A Promise to Keep program)

The lieutenant governor arrived at the Catholic Center in an ethanol-powered SUV and made time for several media interviews before the program.

Indiana has lots of bright and talented young people who are making a difference in the Hoosier state now, she said in an interview, and who will continue to improve the quality of life here for many years.

“One of my favorite quotes comes from [President] John Quincy Adams, who said, ‘If your actions encourage others to dream more, to learn more and to become more, then you are a leader,’ ” Skillman said. “Doesn’t that [quotation] so perfectly apply to these youth mentors we have in this program because their actions speak volumes, and encourage others to learn more, dream more and become more.”

She noted that teenagers carry their personal histories with them throughout their adult lives.

After the teenage peer mentors greeted Skillman with enthusiastic applause, she told them that the good things in life evolve one day at a time as a result of hard work and dedication, and should be savored and enjoyed as important accomplishments.

“The governor [Mitch Daniels] and I want to build a very strong future for you right here in Indiana,” she said. “We want to keep our bright, talented young individuals here within the state. I know you’re all looking for opportunities that will lead you to the right school, to the right career. The governor and I are doing all we can to open the right doors for you.”

A native of Bedford, Skillman said she has been married to her high school sweetheart, Steve, for 38 years and they have one son, Aaron. She served 12 years in the Indiana Senate before Daniels asked her in 2004 to serve as his running mate and lieutenant governor if he was elected to the state’s highest office.

“You have some waiting to do,” she reminded the teenagers. “You have a number of choices to make, and those choices will determine how many opportunities you have in the future and also what those opportunities will be. I want to assure you that it is possible to have everything you want, but it’s not possible to have everything you want at the same time.”

Skillman said every change in her life brought exciting new challenges that were worth waiting for years.

“Don’t wish away even one season of your life,” she said. “I’ve always been content to really live what I’ve been given. I chose to be content and enjoy what was before me, not quick to wish away even one season of my life to get on with another. I think one of the most precious secrets to life is to enjoy the passage of time, no matter what it holds for you.”

Everyone has dreams and goals for the future, Skillman explained, but it’s important to remember to stay “fully invested” in the present.

“Waiting for the next thing doesn’t have to be a completely frustrating undertaking,” she said. “The waiting can make you even happier when the things you finally acquire come your way.”

Skillman said her husband is four years older so they waited several years to begin dating. After their marriage, they had to wait 10 years until their only child was born.

“Our son, Aaron, was born one day before our 10th anniversary and he was one celebrated little baby,” she said. “He was the first grandchild and also the first great-grandchild on my side of the family. The satisfaction of just holding him in our arms was greater than we had ever anticipated. I know all parents love their children, but with so many years of waiting for ours I was just overwhelmed with joy for our son. He was worth all those years of waiting.”

Skillman said her grandfather was a special role model in her life, and she recognizes the importance of good mentors for young people.

“Your present is such a rich, wonderful time,” she said. “It has a lot to offer if you just slow down and enjoy it. … In a world that is screaming at us to have everything we want and to have it right now, I think we all know that it’s usually the hardest things in life that are the most worth doing. Savor this time and don’t get ahead of yourself. Choose wisely. I think you’ll be very happy with the results.”

Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, represented Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein at the awards program.

“You can always choose to do the right thing,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “A Promise to Keep is really about many, many things, but most of all it is about what kind of choices that you make, and what kind of choices you encourage or teach others to make. … You are leaders right now so the choices you make, and the choices that you make others think about, can make a tremendous difference.”

He said one choice—one 30-second decision—can change the course of a person’s life forever.

“There’s no going back once we make certain choices,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “I want to thank you, as the lieutenant governor already alluded to, for taking choices seriously. Never forget, in terms of A Promise to Keep or any other decisions that you will make from now on, … [that] our choices make us who we are and what we want to be.”

Margaret Hendricks, program coordinator of the A Promise to Keep peer mentor program, said more than 350 Catholic high school students in Marion County alone have been mentors to more than 5,000 middle school students during the 2007-08 school year.

Their distinguished volunteer service was also recognized by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who sent a proclamation honoring the peer mentors from Bishop Chatard High School, Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School, Roncalli High School, Cardinal Ritter High School, Cathedral High School and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis.

Chastity peer mentors from Seton Catholic High School in Richmond, Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg and St. Agnes Parish in Nashville also were honored for their volunteer service in the abstinence education program. †

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