Harvard Model Congress: Growing Interest and Competition Lead to Continued Success
Every February, a group of about 30 Packer students undertake a long trek by train to Boston. There, members of Packer’s Harvard Model Congress club partake in a simulation of our nation’s congress, resolving issues they are presented with in real time, while trying to maintain a sense of reality. This year, the 31st annual congress contained a plethora of Packer students ranging from freshman to seniors, united by one common goal: to miss an extra week of classes. All joking aside, Model Congress is one of the longest standing clubs at Packer. Its members are aspiring politicians and political scientists hoping to gain experience and pursue their passions.
When students go to Harvard Model Congress, they play the role of a particular Washington politician, whether it be a member of Congress, a Supreme Court justice, a district lawyer, or even a cabinet member of the West Wing. In the few weeks preceding the trip, they read up on their role and learn the viewpoints and rationalizations that they must dispute. The topics of discussion are a direct reflection of the ones congress members carry out each day, ranging from issues such as tax reform to agriculture.
For many students, Harvard Model Congress is a great experience which allows them to make friends from around the country, put their political knowledge into practice, and experience different cultures and ideologies. Liney Kindler (‘18), our current student council President and one of the leaders of HMC and a four year member of the trip, explained the importance of leaving the Packer “bubble.” This year, her role was to campaign for the Republican National Committee on issues such as gun control, something she found both difficult and interesting. While most would assume playing a role vastly different from your own would be complicated, Liney thought it really sums up the ideas of the conference.
“HMC is really what you make it,” she said, “If you engage and play your part, you’re going to have a great time.” For her, the conference has enabled her to find new passions, such as lawyering, something she discovered during her two years of district court at HMC.
Throughout my conversations with multiple community members who are involved with HMC, they all noted the increased competition the club has experienced in recent years. While the current seniors have been very involved for many years and do a great job representing Packer, the current freshman and sophomores take the simulation to a new level.
This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Peter Melman, who has been a faculty advisor for the trip for the last few years. “It’s amazing to watch a 14 year old seriously investigate the existential threat that Russia might hypothetically play or how to pass this fiscal bill towards the improvement of infrastructure in the United States,” he said. Dr. Melman admires the students’ positive attitudes and good work ethic, saying that students, “work very hard off their own initiative, for their own benefit.”
Lily Bowman (‘21) is one of the hardworking underclassmen who attended HMC this year. As a middle schooler, she participated in her school’s Model Congress, and decided it was an activity she wanted to pursue further during her high school years. Since the beginning of the year, Lily had to attend multiple meetings regarding the trip, write about why she wanted to join HMC, prepare arguments for her assigned roles, and read briefings before attending the trip. While it seems like a lot of work for an extracurricular activity, Lily enjoyed it. One of favorite parts, akin to Liney’s, was the exploration of new ideologies.
“I really enjoyed the preparation for it, because I had to come up with a point of view that wasn’t mine and I had to come up with arguments to defend that stance,” said Lily.
Something that was continuously mentioned throughout my interviews was HMC’s ability to grow students’ confidence. Liney, who as a freshman was petrified to speak, noted how over the years she has become more active and involved in the conference. This was reiterated by Lily, who said, “Initially I was too scared to get up and debate. But on the last day I ended up speaking, which was probably my favorite part.”
While HMC has been a successful club for many years, Packer’s program seems to be expanding and accelerating towards becoming even more serious. Packer has performed so well in past years that we are given an allocation of upwards of 30 spots for the trip, while other schools receive 25. That being said, as interest in politics begins to drum up throughout the Upper School, HMC looks set to become more competitive and successful in years to come. While senior leaders Liney and Carden Katz (‘18) will be gone next year, the program will undoubtedly remain in good hands.