Youth from 8 to 18 debated key election issues Sunday, Oct. 13, at Flagler County NAACP’s “This Is My Vote” debate, presented by the Flagler County Youth Council.
The event not only served as a tool to get youth involved in politics, but also as a reminder to the adults who watched the debate of the importance of voting.
“Voting is how you go out and make your voice heard,” said Crystal N. Buchanan, a high school student.
“When you go out to vote, think of me, think of him,” she said, pointing to a fellow debater. “Think of us. We can’t vote, and you can. You’re making decisions for us.”
The debaters were divided into two groups — one for the youngest of them, and the other for the older. The younger group, consisting mostly of middle school students, discussed school lunches and the merit of Michelle Obama’s school lunch program.
Debaters were Stefanie Ecklin, Terrell Fleury, Rochelle Mills, Anais Mims, Ashanti Mims and Jonniyah S. A. Walker.
The other group discussed healthcare, taxes and foreign policy and voting.
Debaters in this group were Buchanan, Troy Buchanan, Ne’ericka Curry, Bryan Dieudonne, Geraldine Jeannot, Jaira Jackson, Daniel Mills, Xavier Ryan and Tyrone Walker.
Ashley Quier moderated each debate. Students were divided into two groups and given a stance on each particular topic, which they were told to argue. They spent the time leading up to the debate doing research on each topic on their own.
As the debates continued, the room developed a playful atmosphere, though the seriousness of the debates was never compromised. The students discussed taxes using specific figures and referencing Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama’s stances on the positions, and, at times, a jocular tone.
“Why is it that a multimillionaire pays the same amount of taxes as a single mother with multiple children?” Jeannot said.
“Because,” Ryan said, “corporations have multiple children of their own — they have expenses of their own.”
Ryan argued the wealthy have expenses relative to their incomes and that by paying a percentage of their income into taxes, they’re already contributing more money to the government than a person with a smaller income would.
“So?” Jeannot said. “They have trillions — they can pay some millions.”
The student panels and audience laughed at this, but the topic wasn’t dropped — rather, the debaters continued to explore it until time limits forced them to stop.
The NAACP promotes voting in Flagler County by hosting events like this and by offering free rides to polls during early voting and the general election. Those who wish to reserve a ride to the polls can call 446-7822.
“A lot of people still ask why we still need the NAACP,” said Linda Haywood, president of the Flagler branch of the organization. “We have been at the forefront of the fight against voter suppression, but the fight continues.”
And educating youth about political issues and the importance of voting is part of that fight.
“We want to provide a safe place for (youth) to voice their opinion and to nurture them to grow,” Haywood said.
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