COLUMBIA — Representatives from the five parties that will appear on the Missouri ballot took to the stage Thursday night at Hickman High School.
Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Progressive and Constitution party representatives addressed about 220 students and faculty as part of the school's Speak Your Mind series, which is designed to inform high school students about community and national issues.
"We felt it was important to include third parties as well as the Democratic and Republican parties," George Frissell, a Hickman teacher who helped organize the event, said. "Democracy does not have to be a two-party system. Our students have a lot of opportunities to see media coverage of Obama and McCain, but they don't have a lot of access to information about the other parties."
Panel member Cynthia Redburn, who is running as a Constitution Party candidate in Missouri's Third Congressional District, said the event was one of the highlights of her campaign.
"I couldn't think of anything more important than the opportunity to speak with young people," she said. "It is very important that they understand that there are other political philosophies besides those of the Democratic and Republican parties."
Each panel member was given five minutes to present party platforms. After that, an hour-long question-and-answer session took place.
Hickman students asked about issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost of higher education and abortion rights.
Hickman student Allison McSherry, who will be voting on Tuesday, helped plan the event. She said the Speak Your Mind forum topics are submitted by students to a suggestion box, and a majority of the suggestions requested a forum on political parties.
Student Grant Schooley said the idea behind inviting all five parties was to accurately represent everyone in America.
"A lot of people only know about Democrats and Republicans," he said.
Sophomore William Lee said that, prior to the forum, he didn't know about the Libertarian or Progressive parties.
Although he is not yet old enough to vote, he attended the forum because he said he felt it was important "to decide for myself which party I'm for."
Frissell said about 25 percent of Hickman students are eligible to vote. The forum was intended to help inform their decisions on Nov. 4th, as well as inform their younger counterparts.
"We know there are those students who are not able to vote who are still very interested in the election," Frissell said.