Sunday, January 30, 2000

Mock election offers taste of politics


Students act as campaign chairs

BY WALT SCHAEFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Jarrett Brown has a lofty career goal — president of the United States — after getting a law degree, of course.

        Mr. Brown, 18, a senior at Lakota West High School in West Chester along with Allison Penner, 18, a senior at Lakota East High, Liberty Township, Butler County, already have begun their political lives.

        They were the student coordinators of the Junior State of America's (JSA) mock political convention and presidential election Saturday at Music Hall.

        “This has been a great experience,” Mr. Brown said. “It has provided me with much more knowledge (about the political system) and how to get involved in political parties.”

        Students nominated Republican and Democratic candidates and then conducted a mock presidential election that saw Democrat Bill Bradley best Republican John McCain.

        “I really like Bill Bradley,” said Ms. Penner, who aspires to a foreign affairs career in the U.S. State Department or the United Nations.

        “He is the only one in the race who does not support an increase in defense spending. I feel strongly that our military needs to be severely cut down.”

        About 45 high school students from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana attended. They all are members of JSA — a 65-year-old nonpartisan, national non-profit organization. It is dedicated to encouraging political awareness among high school students and is sponsored by the Junior Statesmen Foundation based in San Mateo, Calif.

        Saturday's event was funded by grants from Procter & Gamble and Cinergy. It was one of 11 such student conventions held nationwide this year, and the second conducted here.

        Students played the roles of campaign chairs.

        Eban Taiwo, 18, a Lakota East senior, led the Bradley campaign. “I really like his position in race relations,” she said. “He is a strong supporter of affirmative action and just improving race relations in general nationwide.”

        Brian Baker, 17, of Bright Ind., who is debating between a career in political science or engineering, led Steve Forbes to a second place finish in Republican nominations. Brian said he favors Forbes' “stand on abortion. He is extremely pro-life, and he is trying to get rid of the country's complex tax system and adopting a flat tax.”

        Usha Nagaraj, 17, a Lakota West junior, led Al Gore's race on a platform promoting environmental issues. “I don't think people understand how important our environment is and how (crucial it is) to deal with issues to preserve the environment.”

        Mr. Taiwo said the program was outstanding because, “It is comforting to meet other people who have some kind of political views, even if they are opposite of mine. That's even more fun. Then you have to challenge yourself and wonder why you believe the way you do. Sometimes you change your beliefs and other times they become even stronger.”

       



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