Students got an interactive lesson in “civic discourse” Tuesday evening at a Speak Your Mind forum at Hickman High School.
Four party representatives spoke to almost 200 students about their parties’ presidential platforms and answered questions from students. David Raithel represented the Democratic Party and Ernie Lee represented the Republican Party. Keith Berkhus from the Green Party and Adam Shahid from the Libertarian Party rounded out the forum.
Similar forums are held three or four times a year at Hickman, focusing on timely political issues like gay marriage or the draft. Hickman language arts chair George Frissell said the draft will probably be the next topic of discussion.
During Tuesday’s forum, students were pleased to hear from the parties not included in the national presidential debates.
“We’re always going to be a bi-partisan system unless we start listening to the other two parties,” said Hickman junior Alyssa Lapan.
The party representatives acknowledged their differences but also their similarities.
Berkhus, the Green Party representative, sided with the Republicans on the issue of local control for schools.
Lee, the Republican, was asked to explain where the tax burden falls.
Shahid, the Libertarian, drew one of the evening’s loudest ovations when he responded to the question posed to the Republican representative regarding taxes. He said presidential candidate Michael Badnarik and the Libertarians don’t believe in taxation, drawing a loud round of applause.
Seth Warren, an 18-year-old Hickman senior, said the debate gave him more information about the Green and Libertarian parties — enough to see similarities between the parties’ views and other ideologies in political history. He said the Libertarian platform on taxes could be compared to the initial attempts to exclude taxes in the First Continental Congress. The Green Party’s advocacy of universal health care and housing reminded him of communism, he said.
“(The forum) answered a lot of questions. I already knew a fair amount about the Democrats and Republicans,” Warren said, adding that extra credit from teachers for attending the event was a bonus.
For the party representatives, the goal was to clarify the stance of their candidates for the Nov. 2 vote.
“This is not a trivial election,” Raithel said. “This is a serious election about what America is choosing to be in the future.”