WASHINGTON DC - Eleven members of the Governor Livingston chapter of Junior Statesman of America (JSA) joined fellow high school students from Texas and the Mid-Atlantic region at the annual Winter Congress Convention in Washington, D.C, on Thursday, February 20 through Sunday, February 23. Over the course of the three day convention, students discussed issues that are being covered in today’s government.
JSA is a nationwide organization that is meant to help high school students become leaders in society by teaching them valuable debating skills. The club holds conventions at the local, state, and national level in addition to Winter Congress, including Fall State and Spring State. At Winter Congress, students simulate a session of Congress to learn how bills are made, introduced, and then passed or vetoed.
The GL chapter arrived a day before the convention began and explored various sights around Washington DC, including the Lincoln Memorial, M street in Georgetown, and the Giant Pandas at the Smithsonian Zoo. They also watched the Washington Capitals face off with the Montreal Canadiens.
Once the convention began, the JSA members offered up legislation on bills, such those to ban Confederate Symbols, to divide the United States into two separate, functioning countries, and to advocate for fair treatment of migrants at the border.
During the convention, JSA members are assigned roles as either a Senator or Congressperson in their respective chamber. Just like the federal government, a bill must be passed by both chambers to become a law. Unlike the actual government, members only have until Sunday afternoon to have their bills passed.
Senior Alex Pupo enjoyed being able to create and discuss bills with other members of the convention. Pupo said, “It allowed [students] to express our opinions and ideas on how we could change and improve the country if we were actually politicians.” From JSA, Pupo has learned social skills, like communicating with one another, and realized the importance of respecting other people’s opinions.
One of the highlights from the trip was hearing keynote speaker, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg discussed her life and career both before and after becoming a justice in the country’s highest court. Andrew Rampaul-Pino, sophomore, said, “It was insightful and inspiring to hear from someone from that position.”
Ginsberg also gave advice to students and club advisors on civility and listening to the other side. She shared a personal story of her relationship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, about when he solicited her opinion on a book he was writing.
Select students had the opportunity to ask her questions, ranging from which court case in United States’s history was most significant and how to address the growing partisanship in today’s politics.
The Winter Congress Convention was influential for all JSA members. The convention isn’t only for students interested in government, but can be a great opportunity for students to explore new ideas and expand their networking opportunities.