When High Schoolers Run Congress: Harvard Model Congress 2013

Bianca Stelian With all the news of the February 23-24 weekend, (Boston Model UN! Oscars!) an overlooked event that occurred was twenty-some Latin students and faculty traveling to Boston to participate in an event called Harvard Model Congress.  Might I begin by saying that HMC is nothing like Boston Model UN.  Model UN focuses on international issues with perspectives from each country, while HMC focuses mainly on domestic issues and a few international issues, but all from the vantage point of the USA.  With that said, I hope nobody will confuse the two. It might spark some intense rivalries. Do we really need to see a Sam Cohen-Rachel Stone showdown? I’m not sure. It was a bright and early Thursday morning when the HMC gang trudged through O’Hare security and then eventually boarded the plane to Boston.  After some much-needed Instagramming (purely to make the Latin students who were in school that day jealous) and discussion over whether Jessica Chastain would make a surprise appearance at the conference, we arrived at the hotel and quickly prepared for the opening ceremonies.  After some rousing speeches given to over 1300 students from across the country, we all parted ways and went off to our committees to see what good we could do for the USA. For those of you who have yet to participate in a political activity such as HMC, I’ll explain the structure of such an event.  Basically, there are three large groups for a student to be put in: the House of Representatives, the Senate, or Special Programs.  The House and Senate are nearly identical in that they are made up of multiple mini-councils with specific interests (such as Foreign Affairs or Homeland Security).  Over the four days, the mini-councils would meet in the morning and afternoon to introduce bills to solve problems occurring in the moment, and at night, the mini-councils would come together to meet as a full House or Senate to see if they could pass their bills.  Students in either of these would be given an identity of a current person in government from their state (i.e. Maxine Waters, a congresswoman representing California) and act as that person for the weekend. Special Programs, however, presented a much different array of jobs.  Within the SP were multiple groups with very specific agendas.  One could be a member of the HMC Media, who ran around the hotel finding out the latest happenings and wrote articles about them; one could be part of the FBI, who dealt with security matters and terrorism; and one could also participate in the Constitution Committee, a group that acted as if they were from 1776, rewriting the constitution without any input from the actual constitution.  However, the best Special Programs committee to be on was the lobbyist committee, which was then divided into seven different NGOs (non-government organizations) who each had a specific purpose and would protest or support bills being introduced.  For example, when an extremely corrupt women’s rights bill was being discussed in the Senate, my NGO (Amnesty International) barged into the session with posters and chants, protesting the passing of the bill. The weekend progressed with lots of excitement.  The stock market crashed, Chinese tech companies hacked American organizations, Stalin (circa 1917) was kidnapped and put on trial, multiple delegates were shipped off to the Middle East and tortured, and much more.  After a few interesting Harlem Shake videos were produced, a bill titled “Every Child Left Behind” supporting the creation of the Hunger Games was passed, and the Congressional Ball (or better known by Natalie Malek, the ‘Hump and Dump’) occurred, it was time to bid our favorite college model congress event adieu.  With heavy hearts, the now-tight-knit group of students and teachers flew back to Chicago, our yearnings to argue about foreign policy and appropriations holding strong but opportunities to discuss them vanishing.  Later that night I texted a friend from my committee about a recent news story regarding Syria and we had a nice chat about the country’s situation.  Sadly, on Monday, my history class constituted of students in jeans and t-shirts discussing the Italian Renaissance as opposed to senators in suits and dresses discussing economic crises. Whether this article is a summary of the weekend, propaganda to attract more participants, or somewhere in between, I strongly urge all Latin students to investigate HMC and think about if they’d like to be a part of it.  It’s stimulating, professional, and above all else, a crazy amazing experience that I eagerly look forward to next year.  Who knows?  Screaming at a US Congressman about gun rights may be your forte after all.]]>