Redwood JSA chapter participates in Northern California convention

Rachel Schten

The Redwood chapter of the Junior Statesmen of America (JSA) joined representatives from approximately 60 schools in Northern California at a convention in Santa Clara on Nov. 14 and 15 to debate topics such as gun control, immigration and whether Kanye West would make a more viable presidential candidate than Donald Trump.

The Northern California Fall State Convention took place throughout the course of two days with more than eight hours of debates including a mock presidential debate modeled after the debates of this election cycle.

At the conventions, representatives hear a variety of political views.

Miles Johnson (on right) consults with another junior statesmen during a debate.
Miles Johnson (on right) consults with another junior statesmen during a debate.

“You think of California as a very liberal place, but there are a surprising number of conservatives who are in JSA. They get very represented at JSA. You get a wide variety of perspectives because you have people coming from all over California,” said senior Miles Johnson, co-president of the Redwood chapter.

Two Redwood students, Angelica Vohland-Levine and Miles Johnson, won best speaker, an honor awarded by vote from the audience of representatives once a debate is concluded.

According to Johnson, the convention has a specific forum for its debates. Two speakers give six-minute prepared opening speeches. After the opening speeches, anyone can raise their hand and, if picked, give a three-minute subsequent speech in support of one side of the debate. The two main speakers finish the debate with closing speeches, and the outcome is decided by the audience of representatives.

Some of the debates cover serious and controversial issues while others cover humorous or ridiculous ones.

“I was at a debate that said the U.S. should assassinate Putin that turned very silly very quickly, like saying we should replace Putin with a cyborg or move all the people from Russia to Australia, all the people from Australia to China, and all the people from China to Russia,” Johnson said.

The junior statesmen watched debates in conference rooms at the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara.
The junior statesmen watched debates in conference rooms at the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara.

Every debate gives students an opportunity to practice their public speaking skills and express their opinions on a multitude of topics, according to junior Leah Jun, a member of JSA.

“You listen to a lot of different opinions, and it’s interesting to hear those different beliefs and opinions. It makes you learn to be more accepting but also improves your debating skills,” Jun said.

Jun said she chose to go to the convention because it was an opportunity to express her opinions to a receptive audience.

“JSA is a really good opportunity for people to improve their speaking skills and to meet new people. You also gain some new connections and it’s a really good community to be a part of,” Jun said.

The Redwood chapter of JSA meets on Wednesdays at lunch in room 159.