Aiming to promote civic involvement among young people, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and the former first lady Midge Rendell have formed the Rendell Center for Citizenship and Civics at Arcadia University.
In an opening event at the National Constitution Center last week, Ed Rendell remembered being troubled by a recent survey he’d read.
“Fewer high school students knew there were three branches to our federal government than could identify the fact that there were Three Stooges,” he said.
So the Rendell center will continue work Midge Rendell began as Pennsylvania’s first lady to get kids interested and engaged in government and politics.
The former governor promised that he and Midge Rendell, a federal judge at the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, would “drive the process. We don’t want to just be titular heads”
Ed Rendell said the center will try to develop programs for students of all ages, he wants to focus on younger kids.
“I think a young person who has gone through elementary school, middle school and most of high school without any civics education and then takes a 12th grade class, it’s too late, that ship has sailed,” Rendell said. “I want to get kids involved in thinking about citizenship, involved in elections in second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade.”
Students from 30 schools participated in an essay contest on whether the country should continue to require that candidates for president be natural citizens, born in the U.S.
Judge Rendell said judging the more than 150 entries from students was difficult.
“The essays were amazing,” she said. “The future generation does have their own ideas and has the ability to express them. We need to hear more from them, and that is the whole idea behind this contest.”
Ed Rendell said the contest is an important beginning, and he’ll work on raising money to expand the center’s efforts. As a judge, Midge Rendell is prohibited from engaging in fundraising.
The Rendells are married, but separated.