DODDS students debate legislation at Model US Senate
RAUNHEIM, Germany — “Remember guys, we want to negotiate, not concede,” Lakenheath High School senior Price Bevill barked at a group of fellow students.
More than 100 high school students from 15 Department of Defense Dependents Schools across Europe spent the week delving into the U.S. political process, role-playing senators and other government officials at the Model United States Senate.
Bevill portrayed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He was hoping to galvanize like-minded “Senators” before the afternoon’s committee votes on draft bills advancing to the mock Senate floor.
While some proposed bills sparked fierce debate, others moved swiftly through the committee. One example was the Democrat-proposed “Equal Screening Act,” aimed at eliminating expedited screening that the Transportation Security Administration offers to select individuals at airports.
“Due to the overwhelming majority, this bill has passed,” declared Ramstein sophomore Audrey Daly, who was portraying Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. “Clapping is in order.”
Heidelberg senior Renée DuVall shook her head as the Democrat-sponsored “Helping Every American Vote Act” passed the committee vote, 12-2.
“I felt some Republicans weren’t following party lines,” said Duvall, portraying Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
DuVall, who wants to major in political science in college, said being around students who enjoy debating politics is a refreshing experience.
“At the school lunch table, you can’t talk about politics, but here it’s a whole week of it,” DuVall said.
The use of drones, legalization of marijuana, foreign relations, physician-assisted suicide, cyber security and military downsizing were some of the issues tackled.
It wasn’t just in the committee rooms and on the mock Senate floor where students learned about political life. Party leadership gave mock press conferences to a student broadcast crew and senators urged President Barack Obama, portrayed by Vicenza senior Alex McKenzie, to veto or sign legislation into law.
McKenzie even held a State of the Union address.
He relished the role.
“Walk into a room and have everyone stand and applaud for you builds up your ego,” said McKenzie, joking that things would change when he got home and waited for his mom to pull out his chair for him at the kitchen table.
SHAPE senior Clarissa McLaren, who portrayed a Republican senator at last year’s event, stepped into the shoes of Vice President Joe Biden this year.
“It’s exciting to see how people who have never met can sit down together and work out an issue,” McLaren said.
The self-described news and history junkie wasn’t surprised that so many DODDS-Europe students show a passion for politics, despite the polarized political climate back home.
“There’s a certain amount of idealism that comes with being in high school that hasn’t been stamped out by the real world,” said McLaren.