Jonathan Serota Yale Model Congress Speechby Representative Steve Israel
Posted on 2013-12-19
of new york
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to draw your
attention to a speech given by one of my young constituents, Jonathan
Serota of Brookville, NY. Jonathan ran for President of Yale Model
Congress and spoke about the need for compromise and commitment to our
country. His words are wise beyond his years and all of the members of
this chamber would do well to hear them. I'd like to share them with
you now and hereby insert Jonathan's speech as follows in the
For 408 hours, the government of the United States of
America shut down its facilities and closed its doors. Over
the course of that tumultuous time, national parks, museums,
and public grounds were barred to visitors. 800,000 Federal
workers were sent home from their jobs, and many more were
forced to work with delayed pay. Veterans, and active duty
military personnel and their families were kept in a constant
state of fear, worried about making ends meet. This period of
panic was not caused by some foreign aggressor, some
archenemy of state, or some ruthless tyrant. No, the crisis
that shook the very faith that the American people had in
their government, was caused by that very body itself. So who
is to blame for the government shutdown? Shall we point
fingers at Republicans? How about the Democrats? It must be
someone's fault right? That IS what our political system has
taught us isn't it? Well, it appears that recently, that is
just what it has done. As the ominous clouds descended upon
the capital in the early hours of October the 1st, the
government shutdown that took place in the District of
Columbia, and all across the country, had effects that will
continue to be impactful for years to come.
Model Congress. The word `model' implies a want or desire to replicate, to recreate and imitate. For years now, thousands of students have come to Yale and other conferences alike, and taken pride in acting as Senators, Representatives, Cabinet Members, and Presidents. We have touted our accomplishments on our resumes, shined our gavels and framed our certificates. My question to you tonight is: Do we really, want to model Congress? The body which we have all gathered here tonight to replicate has, over the past several years, produced a stalemate and inefficiency that has rarely been seen in the long and arduous history of both man and this nation. Complete ideological division, refusal to compromise, and the inability to put national interest above self interest has weakened our country, as well as its image both at home and abroad. Why is it as teenagers, we are able to sit down, talk, work out our problems, and come to productive agreements, but as adults, we put our fingers in our ears and stomp our feet on the ground until we get what we want? The roles seem to be backwards if you ask me.
People would like to have you believe that we are naive, we are inexperienced, and we know too little about the world to make decisions on our own. Well I argue the contrary. I think that they are too rigid, they are too closed minded, and they are too pleased with pushing the blame onto others, that they fail to see that the problem is caused by no one else but themselves.
Is this what America is about? Surely the land of the free and the home of the brave is not just some idealistic nonsense that we were told about in second grade, and then by the cruel hand of fate, forced to rule out as anything but true. The American ideal that we all hold dear to our hearts, the feeling of honor that sweeps over our senses and rushes down our spine when we publicly declare, ``I am proud to be an American!'' is only true because our government is about us, the people. We, the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. We are that posterity.
We have come to this conference to argue for things which we are passionate about, and argue against those which we are passionately not about. We have come to this conference to test each other, and our ability to work together to shape both foreign and domestic policy. We have come to this conference to gain experience, to gain knowledge, and to make progress not only for ourselves, but also for those who feel that their opinion doesn't matter. While most of us came here tonight with distinct political agendas, we have always been able to open our minds, challenge our beliefs, and move together in the hope that we may one day truly create what Ronald Reagan famously described as, ``that shining city on a hill.'' I love what we do here at Model Congress. If you ask me, I don't think we imitate Congress, we act better than it. We don't aspire to be like them, we aspire to be better than them. Here, at this conference, we have come together to act like the body of government that the founders intended. There are no special interest groups, no superpacs, no shady campaign deals, and no political parties. There is only the work we have set out to do, and the goals which we wish to achieve.
As I sat to write this speech, I decided that I wanted to talk about something that really mattered to us, the youth of America. Now, I could have simply gotten up here, shouted a couple of phrases like ``legalize marijuana,'' ``Make the playing field fairer,'' ``lower taxes,'' ``feed the hungry'' and ``help the poor.'' And while I'm sure that I would have gotten a couple of apathetic rounds of applause, I thought that it would be more prudent to get up here, and as I have, talk about something that we, both as citizens and as young adults, are frustrated with in the hopes of bringing about change.
If elected I vow to each and every one of you, that I will help us take those first frightening steps into the obscure and unsure future. I will do my best to lead this conference in a way so that Congressmen, Senators, Governors, and Presidents alike know that we won't accept anything less than that second grade idealistic dream, so that our peers both here and at home know that we mean business, and so that we may all realize that we must join hands and look into the unknown abyss that is our future, and conquer it with the fearless determination that is so quintessentially American.
With hope and faith, we move forward together. With knowledge and determination, we strive, to make a better tomorrow. May God Bless each and every one of you, and may God Bless the United States of America.