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FUTURE LEADERS: Tyler Dean Mortensen
By Joseph Branco


March 30, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - Leadership is my favorite quality of humankind. I have always been impressed by the ability of people to inspire greatness and unleash potential in others. I am most impressed with the leadership of our community's young people. I have dedicated this outlet for the citizens of Ketchikan to meet and briefly identify with our rising stars. It is my pleasure to interview these great people who will, no doubt, shape our community in the future.

I recently had the opportunity to interview another rising star in our community who just happens to be in Ecuador during our interview! Tyler's name was brought to my attention by numerous people including many of his peers and community leaders in our community. I was informed of Tyler's great leadership skills, amazing potential, and fondness for political debate - often finding comfort on the "right" side of certain issues - already making him an instant success in my eyes! So I am pleased to share my interview with one of Ketchikan's brightest young leaders - Tyler Mortensen.

jpg Tyler Mortensen

Tyler Mortensen

Q - Age? Year in school?

A - 17, High School Junior

Q- List organizations, clubs, and extra curricular activities you are/have been involved with and any titles you have held?

A - Rotary International (Rotary Club 2000) - Exchange Student
Roteract Club (Rotary Club 4400, Ecuador) - Roteract Member

Q - What would you like to accomplish in your lifetime?

A - I would love to visit every continent, besides Antarctica. I know that everyone says they'd love to travel around the world, but I'm more than half way there. Not only would I want to travel to every continent, but I would love to make an extended stay in Japan. It's been my dream after I went to Japan to actually live there for many years. Living there would actually accomplish two of my dreams, to live there for one, and to learn the Japanese language. If I will be able to do this in my lifetime, it would add a great significance and meaning to my life.

Q - What kind of career do you see yourself in 10 years from now?

A - Somehow I would like to combine two of my favorite things in life into a career. I would love to have a career with golf in it, and a career with a business aspect in it. In 10 years, I see myself, hopefully being an owner or a partner of a golf course. I have found out that putting your interests into your career, makes your life a lot better, and I don't want to live a life where I'm miserable and unhappy with my job.

Q - What do you think is the most important characteristic of a successful leader?
Honesty is one of the most important characteristics for a leader to have. I believe that if a leader is not honest then he/she wouldn't gain any support, which is crucial for a leader to have. To get any of his/her motives passed into law, he needs support. Being honest also creates strong ties with more people, or maybe even foreign countries´ leaders, which makes international affairs, run smoothly, which in turn makes the world run more smoothly.

Q - I've heard you are quite the World traveler. What places have you visited?

A - The places that I have been so far in my life are: Japan for one month through an exchange program in my middle school. I've also been to Spain (Barcelona), London, and France (Paris) on a school trip through my high school. Mexico, Canada on vacation. As of right now I'm an exchange student to Ecuador for one year. In Ecuador I visited one of the most fascinating places in the entire world, the Galapagos Islands, for one week.

Q - What is the best part about growing up in Ketchikan?

A - One of the best parts of growing up in Ketchikan is that, Ketchikan is a small town and everyone in the city knows each other, and every one is considerate of one another. Moving to Ketchikan from Iowa when I was 7 years old was kind of hard, being separated from my grandparents and cousins, but the people in my school and people in the city in general were very considerate and easy to get along with. The consideration of the people made the transition a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.

Q - What is the worst part about growing up in Ketchikan?

A - One of the worst parts of growing up in Ketchikan is the fact that Ketchikan is an island and it rains a lot. There's a feeling of isolation living there, and when it rains for those infamous four weeks straight, it makes it even more depressing. At one point, I didn't leave the island for more than four years. It's not like I have never got the opportunities to travel, but sometimes it's just sad being on that island. Those two things - isolation and rain, make living in Ketchikan hard.

Q - What are the most difficult issues young people in Ketchikan face today?

A - The ongoing pursuit of coolness is a problem that the youth face. The drug increase of the youth in Ketchikan, the increase amount of young people smoking, the increase of sexual activity in the youth. The normal problems of youth in general that you can find all throughout the youth in all parts of the world. Sex, alcohol, drugs, teenage pregnancies, all the normal things young people do when they want to fit in with the ¨cool¨ group.

Q - Who is your favorite person in US history living or deceased (other than family members) and why?

A - Thomas Jefferson is my favorite person in US history. He's a remarkable person who made the United States what is it today. He spent a lot of his time being an architect, inventor, diplomat, lawyer, writer, scientist, a politician, and was one of the founders of the University of Pennsylvania. Without Jefferson in our history, the United States would not have the Declaration of Independence, for he was one of the key authors of the document. We would not have our current money system, for he designed the current currency. He's my favorite person in American history because he accomplished all of this in his lifetime, and seemed to never stop for the better of his country, he was the model citizen.

Q - What was your favorite class in high school and why?

A - One of my favorite classes that I have taken in high school is debate. I enjoy debate for its competitive atmosphere. Through all of the hard work preparing for a debate, the actual act of a debate gets my blood flowing, having all of my evidence prepared, on-the-spot thinking, having a sophisticated argument is fascinating. In debate, and you also have to write many speeches. These speeches have made me more of a public speaker, more up-to-date on politics, and impromptu thinking. Debate and speech has changed my life only for the better.

Q - If you could add a subject to be taught in high school, what would it be?

A- ¨Current World Politics and Issues¨ would be the name of class I would like to see in school. The class would be focused on world political issues of the present time. Why the United State's reputation around the world has dwindled over the past couple decades, why the European Union is a growing power in the world, and the Middle East, would be only some of the issues that would be discussed in this class. A class that would make you finally understand yourself, and where you stand on all these current affairs, getting your opinions out there to the world, without any outside help.

Q - What is your biggest pet peeve?

A - Arrogant people are my biggest pet peeve. People who won't even hear another person's opinions get on my nerves. I feel that people that people need to have their opinions expressed, and for that they need people to listen to them. People who listen and disagree with the opinions are OK, but people who won't even listen to them are my pet peeves. The simple gesture of listening to people can go a long way in the world.

Q - It has been recently suggested that high school diplomas are now worthless pieces of paper. What do you think?

A - Some people may think that a high school diploma is a worthless piece of paper, but what they need to look at is the facts. Workers that have a college degree, are making more than double, nearly triple the salary of those that only have a high school diploma. They need to also realize that college makes us more into adults, the higher education makes us more prepared for the real world.

Q - Do you think outlawing hate speech directly conflicts with our first amendment rights?

A - Personally I do believe that outlawing certain words from our vocabulary would violate our first amendment right. ¨Congress shall make no lawabridging the freedom of speech.¨ I feel that if we punish someone for saying certain words that arouse violence, then we are punishing not only their opinions, but also their own beliefs. I believe that opinions and beliefs are one of the most important things to have, and most important of all, to hold on to your beliefs without being punished for them. Opinions and beliefs are protected by the first amendment.

Q - How do you feel about Bush's social security plan?

A - I feel that President Bush's social security plan is rather risky, but I agree with his plan more than I disagree with it. I like the fact that with these private accounts, you will have more control over your money, which is very appealing. I know that with the money you put into these account, you then put into certain stocks, which is the risky part of the whole plan. Privatising is a way of shifting the nation from a pay-go system to a pre-funded one. Savings would become more plentiful. We wouldn't have to raise taxes rates on future workers, or taxing high salaried workers, which is a threat to the futures of current workers and retirees.

Q - Tell me your thoughts on socialized medicine. Do you think the US should provide free health care to every citizen?

A - I do not feel that the US should provide every citizen with health care. I believe that we as US citizens, were born with three rights, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right to life does not mean that our neighbors have to feed and clothe us; it means we have the right act and keep the rewards. The right to pursuit happiness: if you mere desire something, imposes a duty on other people to satisfy you, they now have become right-less serfs, working on your behalf. The US was the first country of individualism and personal independence. Today, however, we are seeing the complete destruction of the rights that this country was founded on. I feel as if people should work for themselves to get what they want, and not try to depend on other people to give them what they feel they are entitled to.

Q - What do you think about raising the minimum wage to $7.50 per hour?

A - As a youth I feel that raising the minimum wage would be a good idea. As a majority of the minimum paying jobs are occupied by the youth, I feel that they would like to get paid more their work. The main reason people go into work is for the money, and by increasing the amount the employee gets paid, would maybe persuade more young people, or unemployed people, to find work. When I went job searching, one of the main things I wanted to know was how much I was going to get paid, and I know it's just not important to me. Not only would it be a reason to work, it may also keep people who are working for minimum wage happy, for they are being rewarded in a pay raise.

Q - If you were to become a US Senator today, what would be your first focus as a public servant?

A - One of the first focuses I'd push for as Senator would be the whole morals and ethics of the country. In my opinion, as I see it, the morals and ethics of our country are on the wrong track. First of all, I'm a Christian, which is the reason behind a lot of my opinions. I believe that marriage should be between a man and women, strictly this. If we allow the marriage between a man and a man, or visa versa, would lead to the downfall of marriage as we know it. I'm pro-life, so I'm against abortion. I feel that abortion should only be used in the cases of rape or incest. I feel if a woman gets pregnant, I feel that she should take responsibility for it. That would be what I'd first like to go after, straightening up the morals and ethics of the country.

Q - What is the best way to deter drug use among youths?

A - Harsher punishments, I think would be the best way to deter drug use. Most people would say that teaching about drugs in school would be the best way, but for years teachers have been teaching about drugs in health class. With this entire teaching, drug use is still going on within the youth population, if not growing. The only way that I could see working would be harsher punishments. I'm not certain on what the punishments are right now for drug use, most likely community service. Instead of community service, make them pay a fee of $500 or more. I could see that their money would go to fee and not to drugs, and for every offence after the first, increase the fee.

Q - What advice would you give your peers as you all enter adulthood?

A - That your parents aren't going to be looking over your shoulder your entire life, and helping you get out of your troubles. I've had a lot of time to realize that this year that I've been away from my parents. I know it's hard to come to grip with this, but sooner or later, you and your parents are going to part ways. You're going to go on with your life, marriage, common problems, that you'll need to face on your own. I'm not saying that they'll be out of your life 100%, but they want you to live your own life. Be successful on your own. This year I've ran into many problems, problems with my Rotary Club, other exchange students, and without talking to my parents about it, I solved them out on my own. Solving your problems and being out on your own will make you more mature and prepared for life.


If you know of any young future leaders in Ketchikan that deserve recognition and the opportunity to share their thoughts, contact Joseph Branco at

Joseph Branco is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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