JSA organizes political debate

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The Paly Junior Statesmen of America chapter held a debate between local Democratic and Republican party representatives during lunch this past Wednesday, Sept. 22 in the Social Studies Resource Center.

Students as well as staff members crowded into the room to listen to Ed Rowen, Chairman of the Silicon Valley Young Republican Federation, and JT Batson, of the Stanford Democrats, debate on a variety of controversial issues on the current political scene, ranging from war, to taxes, to government spending.

“I thought it was a roaring success,” junior Jonathan Steinman, president of the Paly JSA, said.

The two representatives answered questions posed by the attending students, covering a range of topics including the war in Iraq, America’s fiscal deficit, education, the upcoming national election, and the presidential candidates.

“The audience had great questions,” Steinman said. “There was lots of crowd interest.”

The JSA publicized the debate with bulletin announcements and posters and were pleasantly surprised to find that more people attended the event than expected.

“It was really cool that so many people came,” junior Ariel Shaker, one of about 20 Paly JSA members, said. “I thought it was really successful.”

More than 70 students and staff members were present. People were sitting on the ground and the back tables of the SSRC, while some even had to stand in the hallway.

“It was more than I expected,” Steinman said. “It shows how much interest politics can generate.”

Although students found the debate to be an overall success, some believed the debaters failed to get to the heart of the issues.

“It was really interesting,” junior Leo Franchi said. “But, at the same time, they [the debaters] seemed to go around the questions instead of answering them directly.”

The two speakers answered each question from the perspective of their political party and presidential candidate, but each had a slightly different way of doing so. Batson, the democratic representative, addressed the questions with concrete facts, whereas Rowen, the conservative speaker, often drew from his personal experiences as a war veteran to answer.

“It seemed like the democrat representative was talking more about the issues, while the conservative speaker was beating around the bush with narratives,” junior Anjali Albuquerque said.

Paly JSA’s staff advisor Jack Bungarden commented that the real core of the political issues were not necessarily addressed.

“They [the debaters] talked past each other,” Bungarden said. “It’s reflective of what’s happening nationally.”

According to several students, for the most part, the event achieved its goal of stimulating political interest at Paly though.

“It’s not very often that debaters come to talk to us,” Franchi said.

“Those who came and didn’t know too much about current politics learned a lot I’m sure,” Bungarden said.

According to Steinman, the Paly JSA chapter looks forward to organizing similar political events soon.

“We hope to get various experts from Stanford to speak on a variety of political issues,” Steinman said. “Maybe we’ll have another debate before the national election.”

For next time, Steinman is planning to “publicize it [the event] earlier in advance, and probably get a longer time session.”

“A lot of credit goes to JSA members,” Steinman said. “JSA cared so it gave others a reason to care about politics too.”

JSA is a club for students who are interested in politics, government, and foreign affairs. It is created by students, for students, and Paly’s chapter is just one of many nationwide, according to the JSA website.

Paly JSA meets on Wednesdays during lunch in Room 306. To find more information about Junior Statesmen of America check out the national organization’s website at www.jsa.org.