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Homeschool Grads in Public Office: An Interview with the Root Beer Float Coalition

January 2–6, 2017   |   Vol. 129, Week 7
Previously aired:   January 18–22, 2016   |   Vol. 125, Programs 61–65

What do root beer floats, homeschool graduates, and state legislatures have in common? More than you might think! Hear from members of the Root Beer Float Coalition on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat with your host, Mike Farris.

“Whether it’s politics or business or being a homeschooling mom or dad—it’s [about] finding these passions in your heart that God has given you, and pursuing those.”—Jenna Haggar

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What do root beer floats, homeschool graduates, and state legislatures all have in common? More than you might think! Learn more on this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat with your host, Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: About three years ago, I was at a meeting in Dallas of state legislators from all over the country. It’s a group called the ProFamily Legislative Network. Mostly Christians attend this organization—a conservative group of legislators, for the most part.

And as I was meeting more and more of the legislators (several hundred were there), a number of them introduced themselves to me as having been homeschooled as children. Several were homeschool moms and dads themselves, but a growing number were actually young people who had grown up being homeschooled and now are elected members of state legislatures from all over the country. I was so encouraged by their presence and by the camaraderie, I took them out for what in my life passes for a night of heavy drinking: I took them out and bought them all root beer floats. It was a great fun time and we had a lot of spiritual sharing and then just some fun sharing. But this week, you’re going to meet several members of the Root Beer Float Coalition. There are more than these four that we’ll talk to this week.

One of them I take special, real joy in introducing to you—Nathan Toman. I represented Nathan’s parents in the Supreme Court of North Dakota. Nathan was in Court 2; they were criminally prosecuted for homeschooling Nathan. And now in the same building where they were prosecuted—the same building where I defended them—I met up with Nathan again this year in a legislative hearing, where he is now a member of the North Dakota legislature. What a privilege, what an exciting thing that was for me!

And the whole experience lives out the dream that many families have when they start homeschooling: that we would see our kids grow up to be leaders of the next generation. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s happening. And I’m glad to introduce them to you. I’m Mike Farris.

“You should run for office!” [1:57]

Mike: Today’s guest is one of the original members of the Root Beer Float Coalition, Isaac Latterell. Isaac is serving as a representative in the South Dakota Legislature. Isaac, it is great to have you on the program!

Isaac Latterell: Mike, it’s always great to talk with you. And thanks a lot for the opportunity to be on your show.

Mike: What made you decide to run for office?

Isaac: Well, I had just completed college, and that was followed by an internship in the state senate appropriations committee. And I became friends with a young senator who was a Christian, and he encouraged me: “You know, you should run for office someday.” I hadn’t really thought about that before. I mean, prior to that, I would have told you I would never be a politician. Because it’s just so different than anything I had ever wanted to be about. But I thought, you know, “My friend can do it. Maybe I can do something similar.”

So when I got home, people started actually asking to run against one of the other senators that I worked for, because of his views on marriage and the pro-life issue. And I defeated him by 17 votes in the primary, running on the pro-life issue. And then I narrowly lost in the general [election] to the Democrats. But I decided not to give up. I later ran and won state representative. And my primary motivation was really to defend the unborn and try to restore respect for the Constitution.

Mike: Isaac, can you briefly tell us how homeschooling prepared you for this work?

Isaac: Yeah, absolutely. I was homeschooled in the first half of my education. And I think one of the first things that was great about that experience was that it enabled me to pursue things that really piqued my curiosity. So I was always interested in inventions and thinking outside the box and really understanding the “why” behind everything.

And so when I got into government service—public service—I really wanted to understand, “What are the fundamental reasons? How did we get where we are?” And that brought me to [a] love and respect for the Constitution and what our Founders gave to us. So that’s really one of my main motivations—trying to let everyone else know how unique we have it here in America.

Mike: Isaac, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show and having a friendship with you that’s ongoing.

Fighting human trafficking [3:50]

Mike: It’s my pleasure to introduce to you one of the founding members of the Root Beer Float Coalition, Senator Jenna Haggar. She is from South Dakota. Welcome to the program, Jenna.

Jenna Haggar: Thanks, Mike! You know, it’s truly my joy to be able to be on here with you today.

Mike: Jenna, what made you want to serve as a senator?

Jenna: You know, maybe I’m not the most typical politician. When I first ran for office, I was 24 years old. I ran for—here in South Dakota—for the state house of representatives. My father asked me to run. We had this conversation: we realized that in our heavily Democrat district, not only was there difference within political parties, but also the moral values that the two incumbents had and held to. And I just wanted to offer something different in our district. The individual I was running against was a registered nurse, and actually had a story where she helped a doctor, assisted a doctor in performing a third trimester abortion. That was not the kind of representation that I felt I wanted representing me in our state capitol in Pierre, South Dakota.

Mike: So tell us about your work. What kind of work are you able to do in your new position as a senator?

Jenna: So I served two terms in the state house as a representative, and I’m on my first term [as a senator]—I completed my first year this last March. And in the state senate, we’re working on human trafficking legislation. We can be responsible for that personally, within our own lives, within our own schools, our neighborhood. We can help protect the girls and we can also do that through legislation within our state and our country.

Mike: Jenna, how did your homeschooling experience prepare you for the kind of work that you are able to do now, first as a state legislator and now as a state senator?

Jenna: You know, I think my mom and dad always encouraged us kids to take our responsibilities seriously, but also they gave us the freedom to pursue our own interests and develop our skills that would eventually lead to these opportunities. So whether it’s politics or business or being a homeschooling mom or dad—it’s finding these passions in your heart that God has given you, and pursuing those.

Mike: Jenna, thank you so much for the work you’re doing and for joining us today.

A biblical foundation [5:58]

Mike: My guest today is Jennifer Sullivan. Jennifer is a member of the House of Representatives in Florida, and she’s a homeschooling graduate.

Jennifer Sullivan: Thank you so much for having me.

Mike: Why did you decide to run for office there in Florida?

Jennifer: Well, I was 15 when I visited the capital for the first time. And the Lord really, I think, laid on my heart just a burden for state politics and to be a light for the Lord there. And actually when the seat opened up, I was asked to run by several people in the community and said, “No,” because I was focused on school. But God had other plans. And so I put myself forward to serve, had an incredible team of over 100 volunteers—five-way primary—and thanks to His faithfulness, we were able to win. And it’s been an honor to serve since then.

Mike: How old were you when you ran?

Jennifer: I was 21 when I filed, and then 23 once the election took place.

Mike: Wow. Tell us about your experience as a representative. What kind of work are you focusing on?

Jennifer: Well, it’s been an incredible experience thus far. I just finished my first session and had the privilege of passing seven out of our eight bills. My biggest bill this year was a pro-life bill requiring a 24-hour reflection period and a face-to-face consultation with the doctor who would be performing the abortion. So once they’ve had that face-to-face consultation, then they have to wait 24 hours before performing the procedure. But I’ve also worked on legislation that deals with creating greater government efficiency, cutting taxes, and creating less government as a whole.

Mike: Those are all excellent goals and I commend you especially for your pro-life work.

How did your homeschooling experience prepare you for this job?

Jennifer: I think being homeschooled really gave me the foundation—the biblical foundation—I needed [in order] to know why I believe what I believe. I’m blessed with incredible parents who have instilled a Christian worldview in me and taught me the value of hard work. And in that, I think it gave me a platform, and also the opportunity to be involved in a lot of organizations, such as TeenPact leadership school, [the] Leadership Institute, Girl State, I was in 4-H for nine years. And so all these different leadership programs that, at a young age, I was able to really grown and be stretched in—[they] then gave me the opportunity to then run at a young age.

Mike: Jennifer, thank you so much for serving the people of Florida, and for being on our show today.

Learning continuously [8:15]

Mike: My extremely special guest today is Representative Nathan Toman from the North Dakota House of Representatives. Nathan, welcome to the program.

Nathan Toman: Thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike: Nathan, I get the privilege of saying to our audience that I was able to defend your family in the Supreme Court of North Dakota when they were criminally prosecuted for homeschooling you and your brothers and sisters. And then I saw you again this year, in the North Dakota legislature, in the same building where we argued that case. And now you are a lawmaker. And it’s a great, great turnaround. And I’m so proud of what you’re doing there in North Dakota.

Nathan: Well thanks, Mike. It’s been a pleasure to serve my district.

Mike: Why did you decide to run for office?

Nathan: Well Mike, it wasn’t really under my own thought process. God, through close individuals, prompted me to run. And through much prayer and testing, I decided to run and become involved at that level, and was elected.

Mike: What kind of work are you focusing on in your work as a state legislator?

Nathan: Well, my opinion is: government that governs the least governs the best. But my purview is taxation and political subdivisions, which would be, like, county governments. And so that’s the focus of most of my work: reforming taxing, and making sure that laws are just for North Dakotans.

Mike: How did your homeschooling experience prepare you for your work as an elected official—especially since your family had to fight for the freedom to homeschool you and your brothers and sisters?

Nathan: Yeah, I appreciated being the first generation from that, and we’re homeschooling now. And I think that, first and foremost, the faith-based education that my parents chose. And then, not limiting it to a building or a classroom, we can be flexible and learn continuously, not just in a classroom experience. But that was a good experience for life lessons as well.

Mike: Thank you so much for joining us! It’s been a pleasure talking to you again. I’m so proud of the work you’re doing. I’m Mike Farris.

Isaac LatterellPhoto of Isaac Latterell

Isaac Latterell is a local business owner and Technology Analyst who lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

He has operated Latterell Technology Consulting since 2005 and graduated from Northern State University with a B.S. in Business Finance. His daily work gives him the opportunity to solve computer problems for small business owners, and help them use technology to make their operations and marketing more effective.

Isaac is from a family of 9 kids and has sisters with special needs, which has helped him learn the importance of family, community, and the value of every person from conception to natural death. He enjoys substitute teaching, youth mentoring, and challenging the next generation to respect true principles and reach for worthy goals.

Jenna HaggarPhoto of Jenna Haggar

Jenna Haggar is a State Senator from South Dakota’s 10th Legislative District. Jenna is the youngest female legislator in the state’s history, and she is committed to following the foundational leadership example of the true pioneers of our country. Initially pursuing elected office at age 24, Jenna overcame the challenges of running as a strong conservative in a heavily Democratic district. Through hard work, dedication, and commitment to listening to the concerns of voters, Jenna was the top vote-getter by a large margin against two incumbent Democrat opponents. Her priorities as a young female leader are to promote justice and mercy through political policy. Jenna formerly served as the vice chairman of the House Education Committee, and currently attends Commerce and Energy, Taxation and Local Government Committees.

Jenna strongly believes in the power of an individual to positively influence their community. Jenna has been a youth leadership mentor and speaker at Summit Ministries, and frequently shares motivational talks with young people throughout South Dakota and the United States. Prior to her election to the State House, Jenna served as an advocate in the legislature for the rights of unborn babies and other sanctity of human life issues, and also worked on a United States Senate campaign.

Jenna is social entrepreneur and is the administrator of Rushmore Women; a PAC promoting women’s issues through anti-trafficking and pro-life legislation.

Jennifer SullivanPhoto of Jennifer Sullivan

Born and raised in Central Florida, Jennifer has been a devoted member of the conservative movement for years. Being homeschooled gave her the freedom to develop life skills which she applied to getting conservative elected at all levels of government in Central Florida and across the country, including our Congressman Daniel Webster.

Today, Jennifer is a member of the Lake County Republican Executive Committee and sits on the Executive Board. She has also served as a delegate for Lake County at Presidency 5, and earned a scholarship from Young America’s Foundation, a leading conservative education outfit for college student leaders. With her extensive grassroots involvement and leadership development skills, Jennifer at 23, became the youngest woman elected to the Florida Legislature. She serves her constituents in District 31 by championing the proven and timeless conservative principles in a new era of politics.

The oldest of four children, Jennifer lives in Mount Dora and is a member of St. Andrews Chapel. Outside of politics, Jennifer spent many years volunteering and serving our community through the 4-H Program, representing our community on the State Executive Board of 4-H and at national leadership conferences. In her spare time Jennifer enjoys the outdoors, kayaking, biking, deep sea fishing, camping, and hunting with her family.

Nathan TomanPhoto of Nathan Toman

Nathan Toman is a lifelong North Dakota resident. He currently resides in Mandan with his wife of 13 years. They have 5 children, which they are homeschooling. Nathan has worked in the IT industry for over 17 years. His passions are family, the outdoors, and carpentry. Nathan was first elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives in 2012. He currently serves on the Finance and Tax Committee and the Political Subdivisions Committee. Nathan’s main political focus is defending liberty, fiscal responsibility, and government transparency.

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