By Taylor Haberle ’14
From February 21-23 over a thousand students descended on Arlington, VA for the 2014 Midatlantic State + Texas Winter Congress. George School brought our largest group ever, with twenty seven students attending!
We left George School early Friday morning and arrived at the Capitol after an adventure on public transportation. Staffers from Rep. Fitzpatrick’s office led us on a tour of the historic building, ending with a break in the gallery of the House, next to where Michelle Obama took in her husband’s State Of The Union address a month before. We also saw the offices of the Congressional leadership and explored the Rotunda. We went to the local mall for dinner and attended a patriotic-themed dance for the rest of the night.
The group rose early in the morning on Saturday for Starbucks and a long day of committee meetings. Students were assigned to small committees modeled after the House and Senate, with 40-80 people in each. These debates lasted over seven hours, and many George School students spoke in important and needed roles. Three of our bills were selected before the conference to be debated, and many more students volunteered for “main con” and “subsequent” roles. We debated and voted in a Congressional manner, and bills were “passed” by receiving a majority of votes in the House and Senate.
On Saturday night we ate dinner and shopped, then took a midnight monument bus tour, which brought us to all the important sights in Washington D.C. The tour concluded with a walk up the National Mall to the Lincoln Monument.
On Sunday, we attended larger committees that debated the bills that were passed the previous day. George School attendees handled themselves excellently, once again, and received many rounds of well deserved applause. These debates were quicker and permanently adjourned at 2:00 PM, after which we packed up and went home.
An exciting part of this year’s event was the number of chapter records this group set!
1) We had the largest group in George School JSA history, which was over twice the size of last year.
2) A group effort by George Thurlow, Warren Nelson, and Sam Zakrzewski passed a high speed railway bill through all four committees in a very arduous and difficult process. Under a quarter of the bills proposed reached final passage, and their bill will be mailed to the United States Senate. This is the first George School bill to accomplish this in two years!
3) George Thurlow clerked a committee on Saturday! A George School attendee had never held a leadership position at Winter Congress in previous years.
4) I won Senate Best Speaker on both Saturday and Sunday, for the first time in GS history. Only one other individual, out of 1,100 attendees, accomplished this feat of “double gaveling”. This is a very difficult and competitive award to win once, but even more demanding to collect twice.
This trip has changed my life the past two years and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to attend. I’m disappointed my JSA career is over, but I hope my upcoming graduation allows others to step up and create the same wonderful memories I’ve been fortunate enough to create in two short years.