SALEM, Ore. — Eleven-year-old Dom Peters, inaugurated as Oregon’s first “kid governor” Monday, said he hopes to use his newfound soapbox to spread a message that kids should not bully each other.
Peters is a fifth-grader at Willamette Valley Christian School, located in Brooks. He applied for the first annual kid governor contest, which asks Oregon’s youth to record a short video on a topic of their choice and complete several civics lessons. Peters was elected by fifth-graders across the state from a field of eight finalists. His “term” lasts one year.
Though Peters’ title as kid governor comes with no real powers, Monday’s ceremony was carried out with full pomp and circumstance.
There was a full invocation, live rendition of the national anthem and a presentation of the colors by a local Boy Scouts troop. Peters’ family, friends and classmates filled the chamber of the Oregon Senate, including the side aisles and gallery.
But before the inauguration came a bit of education.
Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who spearheaded bringing the civics program to Oregon, gave a short lecture on the executive branch. Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, spoke on the legislative branch. And Paul De Muniz, a former chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, spoke about the judicial branch. Their message was that Oregon’s government is precious, and its branches are co-equal and dependent on each other for success.
De Muniz administered the oath of office to Peters, who was sporting a three-piece suit.
“I really hope I can make a difference in Oregon to stop bullying,” Peters said. He said the first step is to remind classmates to work together and be kind to each other.
Peters said he is writing a book about bullying that he hopes to give to kids across the state. He said he also started a “Super Kind Helpers’ Club” at his school to help others be watchful for bullying.
“I’ve seen a lot of bullying and I’ve been bullied,” Peters said. “Being bullied doesn’t feel good.”
Though Peters picked a platform, being kid governor also requires him to learn about the functions of government and help teach those lessons to other Oregon fifth grades. That’s the real aim of the contest, Richardson said. He called it “participatory democracy in action.”
Peters told reporters that he was nervous to accept his position as kid governor — probably not unlike how real governors feel on their first day in office. And though he said his position comes with a bit of gravitas, it isn’t going to his head.
“I don’t want people to think I have a lot of authority,” he said. “I’m just a kid.”