By Vince Galioto
The room goes silent after the gavel slams on the table. A motion has been made to ban the word “parasite” from abortion debate in Junior Statesmen of America (JSA). When it is time to vote all hands are raised. The “p word” or parasite is banned from the debate.
The vote was part of the thought talk portion of the debate when anyone can come in to discuss the topic of the day. The intention of the debate was not to evoke controversy, but rather try a new system of incorporating new people in the debate.
Lakota East sophomore and JSA co-president Weston Lindner noticed that during the pre-debate portion of the meetings where anyone can talk, called Thought Talk, more people would speak up. Yet only a few people were actually signing up for the formal debate. In order to encourage more participation he asked members to speak in advance and prepare for the abortion debate ahead of time.
“Many members intend to debate but get cold feet when they are at the meeting or they are not adequately informed on the topic,” Lindner said. “By selecting speakers for the first round of debate we combat both these problems by having debaters commit in advance and do research on the topic.
The sign-ups will eventually be open to anyone who would like to partake in the debate. One of the students who agreed to speak was East sophomore Hannah Ackerman who argued the pro-choice side in the first round. Lindner said that Ackerman was the first person he thought of to speak in advance because he noticed she would be willing to speak on women’s health issues.
“I think it really helps people get comfortable with public speaking,” Ackerman said. “Last year at the first few meetings I did not say a word. It also helps you become more tolerant of other people’s opinion and talk to other people to understand their opinion.”
At the end of the first round of debate is a round for anyone in the audience to come up to the front of the class and argue either side. All participants of the two debates are then eligible to win the title best speaker which is determined by a vote from their peers.
East junior Griffin Noe decided to enter the second round because he felt that someone needed to argue the pro-life side of the debate. He did not plan to speak but thought he should even though he doesn’t agree with the argument personally.
“No matter what the topic is, I always try to argue the more controversial side so others who support it can see me and feel encouraged to do it too,” Noe, who won best speaker, said. “So you get to see both sides even if there is a dominant side. It is important that everyone has a chance to say what they think.”
Noe believes that JSA is an important place where students can come to fully understand the issues and tolerate other opinions and that students leave the meetings more informed.
“The meetings are important and some people come in here and can’t argue both sides,” Noe said. “You hear people talking about political topics during lunch and which are the same topics we talk about in the meeting. Some people leave the meetings and tell their friends about them.”