Student Democrats "re-engaged in politics" at Spring Convention

March 19, 2006, midnight | By Merlyn Deng | 18 years, 4 months ago

Speeches and workshops given to motivate students

Politically active teenagers mingled with elected officials and candidates at the Montgomery County Coalition of High School Democrats Spring Convention held in Rockville yesterday, March 18.

Several politicians gave speeches and held workshops, both of which were geared toward motivating high school political activists to "go forth and multiply," in order to prepare for the upcoming November elections, according to Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party Terry Lierman.

Blair juniors Lea Savard-McNicoll and Adam Yalowitz, the student chairs of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, and other high school Young Democrats had been planning this event for about a year, according to Savard-McNicoll. After a sign-in of high school students attending, the students, volunteers and politicians settled down for the Spring Convention to commence. Savard-McNicoll introduced the first speaker, current Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, who is also a candidate in this fall's gubernatorial race.

In addition to motivating the attendees to help take back the governor's mansion this fall, Duncan encouraged the high school students present at the Spring Convention to continue working hard for a successful campaign season. He hailed this year's election as "the election that people will be talking about 20 years from now" and that "[the Democrats] can make Maryland the greatest state if the right people are elected."

After Duncan concluded his speech, another Blair junior, Eve Gleichman, introduced Heather Mizeur. Mizeur, a runner for a position in the House of Delegates, emphasized the importance of politically active youth, calling them "the driving force for the change." She then told a story entitled, "A day in the life of Joe Republican," which highlighted the accomplishments of Democrats in the daily lives of all people.

Local Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen gave the final speech, in which he again emphasized the importance of each volunteer's contribution in these elections. His speech then turned to focus on the events happening at the national level. According to him, "the magic number is 15." Fifteen is the number of seats currently held by Republicans that he believes the Democrats need to win in order to take back the House of Representatives. Van Hollen spoke of how previous pundits had predicted a GOP-dominated House, but he maintains that "if the momentum continues, we will do very well" and that many of those pundits have already begun revising their predictions.

Van Hollen cut his time short in favor of fielding questions from the audience. While several politicians asked questions, various high school students also voiced their concerns and questions. Of the issues discussed, they included role models in the Democratic Party as well as today's campaign finance system, which skews publicity to candidates who are not necessarily qualified, but more rich or well-funded. The question about the campaign finance system sparked a short discussion. Overall, there was a general consensus that there should be a reduction in the influence of money on the success of campaigns, with some people voicing experiences in past elections where opposing parties had nearly twice the amount of funds as the Democrats had.

The event took on a different tone when Karen Britto, the chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, stood at the front of the room to hand out prizes. She rewarded students who successfully answered her questions water bottles and handbags.

After the speeches had finished and the prizes had been given, students were invited to attend two out of the three offered workshops. The sessions included one on Maryland legislative process, given by Maryland State Senator Sharon Grosfeld; "How to give your High School Dems club substance and get your message across to other students at school," given by Mizeur; and "Volunteer and campaign skills," given by Progressive Maryland's Tom Hucker. After the speakers concluded their respective workshops, students were encouraged to ask questions.

The event culminated in a campaign fair, during which students signed up for campaigns. In the closing minutes of the convention, Lierman arrived after just returning from New York to give a brief speech that echoed the words of the politicians who spoke earlier. "This election is not about my future, but your future," he said.

Later on, he noted the vitality at the Spring Convention with pleasure. "It's incredibly energetic, exciting and proof-positive that the youth are re-engaged in politics in Maryland," Lierman said.

Merlyn Deng. Merlyn (Mer - LEEN) has an unhealthy fixation on Silver Chips Online, the Silver Chips Manifesto, red pens and serial commas. When not editing stories and racking her brain for SCO and its readers, she may be found haunting Blair's hallways or downtown Silver Spring. … More »

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