Politics, Parli-Pro, and Pizza
Surprise and horror overtook the guests lodging at the Boston Sheraton Hotel on February 21st, as thousands of students entered the building with “business casual” clothing in tote and a excitement for the 2019 Harvard Model Congress conference to begin.
The three day long government simulation had an enthusiastic, if not slightly boring, start. The Opening Ceremony—a staple event of every conference held— featured impassioned speeches from working politicians who discussed at great length their journey to election and their work as elected officials. The Ceremony also included a video from Senator Elizabeth Warren, who congratulated us for taking the time to learn more about how our government operates in the hopes that we will improve it in the future.
Later that day, we seperated into our committees. These smaller groups of varying sizes represent real committees of our nations House, Senate, West Wing, Special Programs, and more. The work of the House and Senate committees is to draft and pass bills which addressed the briefings we had read before coming; these bills were then brought to the floor of the full session. The briefings for the House Homeland Security committee, for example, detailed the political issues of the current state of the TSA, legal immigration into the United States, and U.S-Taiwan relations.
While I cannot speak for other attendees of the event and their respective committees, my committee (see above) hosted a diverse cast of voices from around the country, all united in their genuine love for political discord. From the get-go, it was clear that these students had gone above and beyond the requirements in their research of the congress people they represented and the issues at hand. It was because of everyone’s commitment to the simulation and knowledge of parliamentary procedure that at times, it felt as though we were really an active branch of the government.
This is not to say that this highly intellectual environment was not open to beginners. I was new this year and I cannot stress enough how willing people are to help you have a great and meaningful first experience at the conference. Contributing in the smaller and larger meetings only enhances your learning and engagement; additionally, your public speaking skills will surely be stronger after the conference concludes.
Although I was astounded by the overall sincerity and integrity of the event’s participants, some of the most memorable times was when we got a little hungry and tired and the highschool student in us all came out. As the multiple hour long sessions drew to a close, the more serious bills were replaced by ones that would probably get laughed out of any congressional committee. One night, a Foreign Affairs committee passed a bill which would fund a highway stretching from Miami to Havana at the low cost of three trillion tax payer dollars. At 10 PM, Armed Services legalized the death penalty in all states with a shocking level of support from the Democratic delegates. In response to the emergency situation where Guam was nuked, one committee passed the “Be Sad for Guam Act” with section A of the bill reading “be sad” and the subsection, “for Guam.”
The degree of independence Packer gave us additionally ensured that the fun didn’t stop when the sessions adjourned. Myself and a few members of the Sophomore class went to get breakfast in Boston Commons one free morning and enjoyed a few hours frolicking around in the snow filled park. The mall which was connected to the hotel provided limitless food options, my favorite meal being our final group dinner at a ramen spot. An acclaimed PCI tradition is the late night Domino’s order complete with pizza, cheesy bread, and cinnamon toast sticks delivered to the door of your hotel room.
Packer students performed strongly at what I felt to be a very memorable conference. We spoke with confidence and conviction, and even found ways to help our fellow classmates out. As an example, Sam Levine (21’), spoke out in strong support of Kate Hardy’s (20’) bill during a full house session, leading to the bills passage.
Every student has returned to Packer with a better understanding of how our government functions and what we can do to make it better. My main takeaway is that in order to enact political change, your first have to understand the process. I don’t think you can truly comprehend political procedure until you yourself are partaking in it.
I cannot wait for the next conference!