By Maya Thomas
In a self-absorbed, selfie-obsessed, entitled society, how do you raise conscientious children who have a sense of responsibility to their neighbors and community? As an influencer of today’s youth, how do you compete with the onslaught of superficial images and messages that dominate social-media and pop culture? Is it even possible?
Interested in the well being of others, public service began pulling on Senator Matthews’ heartstrings long before he ran for public office. While working with the Tulsa Fire Department, he served as a legislative liaison, listening to fellow firefighters and being an advocate. During his 25-year tenure at the fire department, where he retired as the Administrative Fire Chief, Chief of Personnel, he credits his ability to serve others as the most rewarding role.In pursuit of answers to these questions, SHADES Magazine reached out to Kevin Matthews, a sitting Oklahoma State Senator representing District 11 in Tulsa, who has dedicated his life and career to serving others. It is Senator Matthews’ belief that purpose and responsibility can be achieved through serving others. “It amazes me how many people don’t take advantage of volunteering. Volunteering is free training.”
Senator Kevin Matthews’ suggests public service as an avenue to get young people engaged in meaningful and productive work. According to Matthews, one approach is by working the campaign trail. “Young people can find an elected official they want to work for and begin volunteering for the campaign.” He believes that working a campaign not only teaches them about public service, but also provides practical skills such as budgeting and organization.
Even Matthews himself credits the service and contributions of public officials who blazed the trails before him. “It’s the past elected officials in Tulsa and Oklahoma City who advise me. Retired officials are valuable resources in our communities.” By adopting the wisdom and knowledge of his predecessors, Kevin Matthews equips himself with the tools and resources needed to serve the community he represents. There’s no question that he understands his role as a public servant. “I’m here to represent my community. That’s what I got elected for.”
Prior to getting elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 2015, Senator Kevin Matthews served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives representing District 73. In a short time, he’s experienced a great deal of accomplishments. He’s launched programs that helped reduce teen pregnancy and gang violence as well as authored bills that were signed into law.
Today, Senator Matthews is excited about the work in North Tulsa that is very close to his heart. “I think cultural tourism is important for our state and community. Preserving our rich history in Tulsa and promoting economic development within the community is a priority.” He believes that partnerships between community and business leaders are especially critical to the preservation of history and the revitalization of North Tulsa, the home of one of America’s most affluent black communities, during the early 1900’s - Black Wall Street. “We need our young people to partner with business leaders to learn how to become job providers.” Having these mentors can assist youngsters in igniting the passion for serving others and becoming a resource within their own community.
African-American author and civil rights activist, Booker T. Washington believed that the happiest people are those who do the most for others. A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Senator Kevin Matthews is a living example of what it means to find fulfillment in representing the citizens with whom he resides.
So how can we aid our children in accepting the collective charge to make our society better? Perhaps, instead of allowing them to become obsessed with keeping their social-media statuses up to date, we can encourage and expose our youth to real relationships via service projects and community outreach. Helping them to recognize that their efforts can lead to real social change, resulting in a status update that’s truly worth posting!
Check out these Oklahoma legislators – past and present – who have committed themselves to advocating for others through public service.
Representative A.C Hamlin
County: Logan Public Service
According to the Oklahoma Historical Society website, Representative Albert Comstock Hamlin was the first African American elected to the state legislature in 1908. He won the legislative seat by a two-to- one margin in the prominently African American Third District of Logan County. He sponsored legislation for the appropriation of thirty-five thousand dollars for Taft School, a black school for deaf, blind, or orphaned children. He also sponsored successful legislation that would make facilities truly equal for both white and black railroad passengers and an amended bill to prevent certain activities such as theatrical performances and baseball games on Sundays.