On December 2nd-3rd, over 300 delegates from the Midwest State of the Junior State of America traveled to Madison, WI to attend Fall State, the first major convention of the year. For several years, Fall State has been hosted at the grandiose Wisconsin Capitol Building as well as the Madison Concourse Hotel. Generally, Fall State draws the largest Midwest delegations of the entire JSA year for any convention.
The convention kicked off in the Assembly Chamber of the Capitol Building, with all delegates hearing from keynote speaker Harry Brighouse, a Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Professor Brighouse dealt out valuable advice for college for all attendees, along with more general pieces of wisdom about party polarization and tolerance of different political views.
Along with announcements from various other Midwest directors, Midwest Governor Colin Jensen and Lieutenant Governor Anmol Parande delivered their opening remarks, imploring delegates to listen carefully to each other when debating throughout the weekend. After the convention was called to order, delegates flooded out of the Assembly Chamber, venturing into various rooms of the Capitol Building to discuss and contribute to different Thought Talks. Debate and moderator workshops were simultaneously held to help novice JSAers prepare for their first speaking and moderating experiences.
With help from navigation volunteers, delegates were directed to their next choices of debate sessions during the following blocks. Various resolutions were brought to the table, such as ¨Resolved, Congressional filibusters be abolished,¨ and ¨Resolved, a five million dollar cap be placed on Congressional campaign spending.¨
The heated debates from the Capitol Building on Saturday were followed by the Activism Fair and three Legislator Roundtables in the Concourse Hotel. At the Activism Fair, delegates had the opportunity to learn about ways to become involved in activist organizations, such as Pro-Life Wisconsin, Indivisible Madison, and Alliance for Animals. The Legislator Roundtable invited Representatives Melissa Sargent, Terese Berceau, Jimmy Anderson, and Senator Latonya Johnson to speak about topics they felt passionate about and that were within their realm of expertise. These discussions revolved around issues such as the media and its influence on politics, early childhood education, and free speech policies on the UW,-Madison campus.
After dinner came the less serious activities such as Chapter Caucus, where every chapter showcased their JSA spirit through a range of performances, including dancing, singing and acting. Chapter Caucus was followed by a block of light hearted debates on topics such as, ¨Resolved, it is better to be loud than logical,¨ and ¨Resolved, the earth is flat.¨ These debates were just as, if not more, intense than the serious resolutions. These debates transitioned into more night activities: the Open Mic, Dance, and Photobooth, where JSAers had the opportunity to pose in front of the camera with patriotic props and thematic posters. Other engagements open for students were the chances to register for JSA Summer Programs, write letters to veterans, and purchase homemade holiday cookies and various JSA merchandise.
On Sunday, the resolutions and thought talks continued. Audience participation was reflected in the numerous thought-provoking questions that were fired at speakers on both sides of the argument.
In addition, there were some special activities held that day: Mock Congress, and a Mock Supreme Court Case (Mock SCOTUS). Mock Congress consisted of a simulation of our nation’s legislative process. At this activity, students acted as legislators trying to pass a new bill that addressed background checks on gun purchasers. They weighed the merits and drawbacks of the bill, and proposed various amendments. The session ended with a vote that passed the bill. At the Mock Supreme Court Case, Carpenter v. United States was argued with Patrick Corrigan from Lake Forest High School as the plaintiff, and Maya Benzinger from District 204 as the defendant. The two of them assessed the various facets of the case in attempt to convince the Court to rule in their favor. Avigail Bailon from Morton East High School led the discussion and encouraged other delegates to voice their opinions on the case. Ultimately, the panel of justices ruled 7-2 in favor of Carpenter.
Fall State came to a close in the Assembly Chamber, where Best Speaker gavels and other awards such as the Summer School scholarship, were handed out. Delegates were reluctant to say goodbye to one another, and many remained in the building after closing session to catch up with both new and old friends. Although this year’s Fall State is over, the Midwest is already looking forward to many successful conventions and conferences during the remainder of this year and in the years to come.