Tuesday, March 10, 2020

We the People

The Vermont State Finals of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution took place at the Vermont History Museum and Statehouse Pavilion yesterday. After a hiatus in attendance due to the elimination of federal funding for the program, Martha Deiss, Global Citizen Specialist at the Agency of Education, kickstarted, organized and facilitated this year’s competition so that Vermont could send a team to Washington, D.C.  VBA member volunteers jumped at the opportunity to judge the students at the event, to the extent that we had to turn volunteers away!

Students from St. Johnsbury Academy, Poultney High School and Williamstown High School competed and impressed at the event. Judges were blown away by the students’ knowledge, poise and passion for civics as they presented arguments on issues ranging from voting rights to separation of powers, from citizenship to populism and everything in-between.  Each team of three students are given 4 minutes to present on questions chosen by the judges from a list of potential questions provided to the students in advance.  After these presentations, the fun really began as the students were peppered with follow-up questions for six minutes-- questions not provided in advance.

As the students explored basic constitutional provisions on issues relating to voting rights, due process, shared sovereignty, speech and the like, they quickly pulled historical and current examples to the fray, not shying away from hot topics such as non-citizen voting, marijuana legislation and the rise of nationalism. All involved couldn’t help but be awash with pride as so many young people engaged in meaningful discourse regarding civics. Kudos to the teacher-coaches for prepping these amazing students who will undoubtedly and forever be engaged citizens!

Each high school team was asked a specific question from each of 6 units: (1) What Are the Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System; (2) How Did the Framers Create the Constitution; (3) How Has the Constitution Been Changed to Further the Ideals Contained in the Declaration of Independence; (4) How Have the Values and Principals Embodied in the Constitution Shaped American Institutions and Practices; (5) What Rights Does the Bill of Rights Protect and (6) What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the Twenty-First Century? Winners were awarded for each of the 6 units, with the team with the most unit-wins being crowned the overall State Champion. Congratulations to all unit winners and to St. Johnsbury Academy for taking home the trophy! Enjoy the pictures from the event, including the pizza party awards ceremony, below.

Special thanks to our attorney judges: Megan Campbell, Lauren Curran, Dylan Giambatista, Jacob Humbert, Evan Meehan, Keith Roberts, Jenny Ronis, Avi Springer, Alfonso Villegas and Leslie Welts, to Martha and her volunteers and to all the folks at the Vermont History Museum and Vermont Building & Grounds.

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