Suffolk face at Assembly

Published 6:37 pm Saturday, January 2, 2010

When the Virginia General Assembly convenes for its 2010 session on Jan. 13, there will be a new Suffolk face among those moving in and out of the legislative chambers and offices.

But when Fletcher Stephens heads to Richmond, he won’t be there to vote on legislation or meet with lobbyists. As a page in the General Assembly, the 14-year-old will have more basic duties — delivering messages, running paperwork between offices, running errands and the like.

For some of the young participants in the page program, it will be their first exposure to the political process.

But Fletcher, known as Kyle to parents Robert and Karen Stephens, has been around politics all his life. Photos of Fletcher and his dad with state and national political figures adorn the walls of both his bedroom and his father’s study.

“It’s fun and inspiring to meet famous people,” the young teen says. “It kind of tells me that if they can do it, I can, too.”

And that’s the message he wants to send to his friends and others from his peer group as he prepares to leave home for a two-month stay in Richmond: “If you go for something and if you want to do it as much as you say you want to do it, then you can do it.”

Confidence and the power of positive thinking — not to mention hard work — are among the foundational ideals of the Stephens household. There’s also an awareness that God is ultimately the one in control of the family members’ lives.

That awareness is summed up in a question Robert Stephens said he has taught his son to ask himself as he has become involved in everything from community politics to Hollywood movie productions in recent years: “If God has a plan for you, why do you have one?”

Robert Stephens worked in the Clinton White House for years, and the former president keeps in touch with him, maintaining an avid interest in the younger Stephens’ studies and aspirations.

After the elder Stephens suffered a heart attack and he realized he needed to make some lifestyle changes and reduce his level of stress, the family moved to Chuckatuck from Lauren, Md., in 2006, and Fletcher is now a ninth-grade student at King’s Fork High School.

Here, they have attempted to adopt what Robert Stephens calls “a lifestyle of surrender.”

“Sometimes, if we get ourselves out of the way, it’s amazing what can come into your life,” he said.

Fletcher Stephens is a great example of that philosophy in action. Two years ago, he told a reporter he thought he’d like to be the first pro basketball player to become president of the United States. Since then, he has adjusted his goals, leaving the possibility of either former dream open while pursuing a newly developed interest in the law.

Serving as a General Assembly page could be steps toward achieving at least two of those three potential goals, but he still wasn’t sure it was something he wanted to do until he was accepted for the program. He really had hoped to play JV basketball this winter, but he didn’t make the team, so the door opened up to the experience in Richmond, and he decided to surrender to the opportunity.

Leaving school and friends for Richmond would be hard, he said. “But then I had to think about my future and my priorities. This will teach me independence and taking on new responsibilities on a different level.”

There also will be some political and social connections to be made, and it’s likely that a new photograph or two — showing Fletcher with more smiling politicians — will show up on the Stephens walls by the end of the winter.

Nobody knows where this experience might lead. But Fletcher and his parents have resolved to surrender to whatever is in store for them and to take advantage of the opportunities as they arise.