NP Students nominate Yang at 2020 Democratic Convention

On Friday, January 3, North Penn High School held its 2020 Mock Democratic National Convention, continuing a tradition that began in 1976.

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NP Students nominate Yang at 2020 Democratic Convention

The NPHS auditorium was buzzing with politics on Fri., Jan 3 as students conducted the 2020 Mock Democratic National Convention.

The NPHS auditorium was buzzing with politics on Fri., Jan 3 as students conducted the 2020 Mock Democratic National Convention.

Connor Niszczak

The NPHS auditorium was buzzing with politics on Fri., Jan 3 as students conducted the 2020 Mock Democratic National Convention.

Connor Niszczak

Connor Niszczak

The NPHS auditorium was buzzing with politics on Fri., Jan 3 as students conducted the 2020 Mock Democratic National Convention.

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TOWAMENCIN- There are 301 days until the next President of the United States will be decided. North Penn High School has already voted.

On Friday, January 3, over a thousand seniors and juniors gathered in the North Penn High School auditorium for a day full of delegates, discussion, and debating at the 12th Mock Convention. The convention, which takes place every four years, aims to give students a chance to get a taste of what the political process is like. 

NPHS Principal Pete Nicholson, acting as the “Mayor of North Penn”, kicked off the convention with celebratory remarks.

“Today will make you a better, more informed citizen, beyond the walls of North Penn High School,” Nicholson said.

This is the first time the Convention has come to North Penn since Nicholson took over, but he is well aware of the impact that is has on all students that get to be a part of it.

”Every four years, it’s by far the highlight of the school year,” he remarked.   

State Senator Maria Collett (D-12) then gave the student audience some inspiring words about her journey into politics and the importance of using your voice.

”I realized that if I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, I couldn’t sit on the political sidelines anymore,” Collett reflected.

I realized that if I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, I couldn’t sit on the political sidelines anymore”

— Maria Collett, PA State Senator

Social Studies teacher and Convention organizer Mr. Haley then took to the podium to introduce the Student Convention Leaders, Co-Chairs, and Secret Service Agents, portrayed by members of JROTC.

“Our goal here today is not to make you into a Democrat,” Haley made clear. 

Once the student body approved their leaders and adopted some rules for the day, they heard from their Co-Chairs.

Rachel Rubins shared a personal story of her sister Amy, who was born with cerebral palsy, and how she first became involved with politics when she spoke out about a bill that decreased funding for Amy’s special needs school.

“You can affect change no matter your status in America. You have a voice, why not use it,” Rubins said.

Alexis Bamford went back to basics in explaining exactly why it is important for North Penn High School students to discuss and care about politics and hot-button issues.

“The problem with our government is that you only hear about what’s not working. What they don’t tell you is that the ball’s in your court, because you get to vote,” Bamford stated.

The third Co-Chair, Catherine Cavanaugh, concluded the opening ceremonies by speaking on the uniqueness of North Penn’s Convention.

“There is no other group doing this [voting on a candidate] before us. For the first time in 44 years, I think we can pick a winner,” Cavanaugh announced.

The Convention then began an open discussion on major platform issues; immigration, the economy, drug policies, student loan debt, climate change, healthcare, gun control, election security, foreign policy, and slavery reparations.

Throughout the day, there were a number of controversial comments made by students that evoked audible gasps and reactions from the audience. Two of them came during the immigration debate.

“The whole wall thing, yes I agree that it shouldn’t be a thing, but at the same time, we shouldn’t make immigration a lot easier-we’re not trying to have a second 9/11. If we think back to when 9/11 happened, we had Operation Desert Storm that caused a lot more people to die, so if we just increase our national security, less people will die,” one outspoken student said.

Connor Nisczcak

After one female student remarked that ‘people need to recognize that a lot of people don’t have the same privilege as white people in America’, another student passionately argued “I don’t know what you think white privilege is, but it’s not a real thing.”

That remark, which happened to be made by a white male, prompted an African-American student to retort with “That’s a lie! You have it, even if you live an underprivileged life. You may have gone through things, but you’re not gonna go through things that I’ve gone through.” 

The immigration discussion also had many students share stories of their personal immigration and how the current immigration debates affect their families.

”My family are immigrants. I’m an immigrant. A lot of people we know are immigrants, and after the most recent election, the question that my mom and dad asked everyone that came to visit us from India was ‘How was immigration?’ All those people are trying to do is visit family and the people that they care about. In trying to make immigration tighter you should also have to take into account people that are just there to live their lives,” junior Sahana Prasad shared.

”The immigration policy…you have to separate the illegal immigrants from the immigrants coming in from working visas and that are legally here. A lot of illegal immigrants come from airplanes, and boats. We are a nation of immigrants and immigrants help build our economy, so simply throwing them under the bus and making them the scapegoat of our generation isn’t in any way productive,” junior Aranza Trejo-Mora added.

An economic debate was up next, kicked off with commentary from Tom Steyer’s campaign manager, Xander Malik.

The stock market does not reflect how we are doing. How we are doing reflects how we are doing”

— Xander Malik - NPHS student

“The stock market does not reflect how we are doing. How we are doing reflects how we are doing,” Malik declared.

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign manager, Ethan Baker, shot back with “the point is not to completely stifle the stock market, because a lot of Americans do own stocks. It’s about regulating the richest Americans to make sure they’re paying their fair share.”

Drug policy drew the most students out of their seats, with over twenty students speaking out about the legalization of marijuana, the opioid crisis, and the vaping epidemic. Almost every student that spoke supported the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

“Legalize it, don’t criticize it,” said sophomore Gabrielle Armstrong.

Senior Ciara Hayden, a licensed medical marijuana user, shared her personal story of how marijuana helps her manage anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Arguably the most controversial remark of the day was made by a female Senior in regards to the opioid epidemic.

“I think the only thing we should do regarding the opioid crisis is absolutely nothing. If someone is dumb enough to ruin their lives with heroin, that is natural selection at its finest. Not caring who does what drugs is getting the useless people of this world off our streets and filling this world with successful people because all the idiots doing hard drugs will eventually die off,” remarked the student.

The conversation then moved to a discussion about student loan debt.

“As much as we all love the idea of free college, it is not a practical idea. My candidate, Amy Klobuchar, wishes to lower the interest rates at which student loans are taken out, so you only have to pay just a little more than what you took out. She also wants to make the first two years of community college completely free,” said Elijah Slayton, campaign manager for the Klobuchar campaign.

Connor Niszczak
A student comments as student loan debts and how to manage them are discussed.

“College isn’t always the option. There are so many other options of what you can do,” added Senior Josh Martinez.

Climate change was discussed next, with a multitude of students reflecting the idea that our generation will have to be the one to try and save the planet before it is too late.

”If the U.S. was able to switch to renewable energy, it would show other countries that it can be done,” junior Kirsten Mayland said.

“It’s terrifying. It’s schools, it’s malls, it’s everywhere.”

With those words, Senior Tiarah McGill gave the crowd of delegates a rude awakening when sharing her views on gun control. 

When you ask a child what they learned today, they shouldn’t say I learned how to hide under a desk. That’s the reality of America”

— Melanie Hartnett, NPHS Senior

“When you ask a child what they learned today, they shouldn’t say I learned how to hide under a desk. That’s the reality of America,” Senior Melanie Hartnett added. 

After an hour break for lunch, it was time to get down to business.

Each campaign manager took to the podium to lay out their candidate to the delegates, and made their case for why their individual candidate should receive North Penn’s nomination.

Representing the candidates were Lucas Kile for Joe Biden, Jojo Dalwadi for Michael Bloomberg, Kevin McLaughlin for Cory Booker, Quinn Slayton for Pete Buttigieg, Elijah Slayton for Amy Klobuchar, Danny Halovanic for Bernie Sanders, Xander Malik for Tom Steyer, Ethan Baker for Elizabeth Warren, and Brandon Vu for Andrew Yang. Tulsi Gabbard and Deval Patrick were also candidates for North Penn’s nomination, but did not have student campaign managers.

After hearing from the campaign managers, all one thousand plus delegates caucused within their state or territory to decide who they wanted to be their nominee.

One by one, each state chair reported the votes from their state, hoping their favored candidate would reach the required 682 to win. At the end of the vote, Andrew Yang was ahead by more than 300 votes, but did not reach 682.

Mr. Haley announced that Booker, Gabbard, Klobuchar, Steyer, amd Patrick would be dropped for the second round of voting, and just like at a real convention, two groups of superdelegates would be involved in the second round of voting.

In round two of voting, Bernie Sanders had the early lead, but the Yang Gang quickly came out of the shadows, and made it an absolute landslide for Andrew Yang. Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Texas were just a handful of the many states that gave every single one of their votes to the Yang Gang.

Andrew Yang has appealed to many millenials across the country, so if North Penn is an accurate microcosm of the country, 2020 may very well be a great year for the Yang Gang.

The idea of expanding this newfound sense of political engagement outside of NPHS and into the voting booth in November was echoed throughout the day.

Connor Niszczak
Andrew Yang wins the first round of voting, but not enough votes to reach the required number of 682.

“Especially in this day and age, I think it’s really important for this generation to get more involved in both politics and their community. Taking advantage of the incredible opportunities like this mock convention is a very special way to get involved and have the ability to vocalize your opinions. I feel very fortunate to be a part of such an electric event featuring over a thousand students,” Skyler Simpson, who co-anchored coverage live from the auditorium, reflected.

“That’s our future! It’s important to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing when you’re doing it. That was the whole point of having a government with checks and balances, is the fact that we don’t always do things the right way, but the more that you know, the more correct you can be, and the better equipped you are for life as it presents itself to you in an organized society,” Cavanaugh added.

”Clearly we have a lot that’s wrong with our country, and it’s not all going to get fixed overnight. But today was a perfect example of everything that’s going right. There are places in the world where the simple act of walking up to a microphone and starting a sentence with “I think” or “I believe” could get you thrown in jail or under surveillance. In America, you get a spotlight and the chance to make someone else feel less alone, more valued, and a part of something bigger than themselves. None of us are policy experts, but we have something else: we want to learn. I think that’s what I’m proudest of, that people came in to today ready to learn and cared enough to listen,” Bamford concluded.