Politics remain a passion for USG president

Kristen Vasas and Kristen Vasas

At 10 years old, most boys are still wrapped up in video games or competitive school-yard sports.

Politics and human issues are usually far removed from their world. Unless that 10-year-old boy is Johnnie L. Lewis, now the 20-year-old president of Undergraduate Student Government.

Politics became Lewis’s gift and passion when he was only in the fifth grade.

‘When I was 10 years old, I entered an international speech contest,’ he said. ‘That’s when I knew politics and law were going to be my life.’

In that speech, Lewis focused on his future plans and outlined his life from that moment, mentioning that he hoped to go to Harvard University on a full scholarship and be president of the United States by 2028.

‘Obviously, Harvard didn’t happen,’ he joked. ‘But I’m happy with where I ended up. I’m glad to be here.’

During his high school years, his interest in politics only grew stronger. While enrolled at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Lewis founded his own publication, CT Expressions, because the high school offered no extracurricular programs.

‘The experience I had with that led a lot up to now,’ he said. ‘It taught me leadership skills, and that’s what makes me who I am.’

Lewis also discovered the Michigan Youth and Government Program while still enrolled in high school.

‘Through this program, Johnnie was able to mimic national governors and presidents,’ said his mother, Turesa, who chaperoned the program for three years as a mentor. ‘The students involved were able to write and pass bills just like at the national level.’

Lewis was involved with the program all four years of high school. During his freshman year, he served as a secretary and during his sophomore year he was a senate reading clerk. In his junior year, he served as a workplace committee chair and as a senior, he ran for governor but lost to a girl from an opposing high school.

Political programs and international speeches were not the only factors influencing Lewis on his journey. Throughout his life, his mother backed her son in any endeavor he attempted to take on.

‘She is a huge influence in my life,’ Lewis said of his mother. ‘For those who don’t know me, I’m a huge momma’s boy.’

Lewis has even added a quote of his mother’s to his e-mail signature.

‘I was having a bad day during freshman year and I was griping to her on the phone,’ he said. ‘And she just told me ‘change starts with choice,’ and it’s stuck with me ever since. Now it’s on my e-mails so others can see it too.’

Krystle Brooks, a senior attending Grand Valley State University who has been Lewis’s close friend since seventh grade, said that Lewis and his mother have ‘a very open relationship’ in which she ‘never hesitates to give him good advice.’

Turesa said she sees her advice as more than just instructions for her son’s life, but as encouragement for his dreams.

‘When he told me he was gonna run for president [of the Undergraduate Student Government] last winter, I supported him,’ Turesa said. ‘Even if I wouldn’t have, every chance Johnnie has to be involved, he takes it.’

As well as giving her son support for his goals, Brooks also credits her with giving Lewis his outgoing, optimistic and goal-driven personality.

‘I encouraged him to see the good in everybody [when he was younger],’ Turesa said in response to Brooks’s statement. ‘If you have the power to change something and you want to do it, you need to be civil and respectful and mindful of other people as well as yourself.’

‘He has really held on to that idea and it makes a difference,’ Turesa said. ‘I’m just so proud of him for it and for everything he has accomplished in his life so far.’