Students at Miami Lakes Educational Center (MLEC) have proved once again that Millennials are not the uninformed, apathetic generation people make them out to be. The Harbinger and Junior State of America (JSA) hosted a mock presidential debate and a mock senatorial debate four days before Election Day and the student audience was more than interested. They were involved.
Gathering in the school’s auditorium, students watched and listened attentively as Carolina Espinal, a senior in the journalism strand of the Cambridge Academy who was the moderator for the debates, introduced the candidates and listed the rules.
Beforehand, a coin toss was used to determine who would go first and the senatorial debate began. Dru Barcelo represented Senator Marco Rubio (R) and Christopher Justiniano represented Congressman Patrick Murphy (D).
The two candidates began with their opening statements before discussing their endorsements for the presidential candidates from their respective parties.
Questions regarding climate change, gun control, abortion, and education followed as Barcelo and Justiniano answered as the candidates they represented would. Students used Twitter to ask questions using #MLECDebates and Daniela Morales, manning the live Twitter desk, relayed their questions.
“God willing, I will commit to a six year term,” said Rubio during his closing statement before criticizing his opponent for his lack of experience.
“I’m here to become a Senator. I am not here to be a CPA,” Murphy countered in his own closing statement.
The two shook hands and walked off the stage and then it was time for the presidential debate. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was represented by Cesar Zafra and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was represented by Emily Norat.
After the opening statements, the moderator asked questions about gun control, anti-ISIS policies, immigration, national security, and LGBT rights, giving each candidate two minutes to respond. In between, questions from Twitter and from the audience were answered.
Popular lines from each candidate included Clinton’s “I’m sure his shirt and tie were not made in America,” while discussing outsourcing jobs and Trump’s “I’m not trying to make Trump great again, I’m trying to make America great again,” when asked how he felt about losing support from several Republican leaders.
Both candidates finished with closing statements and some students voiced their opinion on the 2016 elections and the mock debate.
“It gave me a broader idea of what Clinton and Trump really stand for and what they are willing to do for the country,” said Dominique Gras, a senior at MLEC. “I was very confused about what Murphy and Rubio stood for and this cleared the air for me.”
Students also shared what they wished to have seen in the actual presidential debates.
“I liked that there was peace between Clinton and Trump [in the mock debate]. I feel that they are very immature in the actual debates. There’s a lot of hostility between the two. It would be nice to see more peace between the two of them,” said Gras.
“I would love to hear them talk about Common Core and teachers and about mental health reform and how it ties into the second amendment,” added Tatiana Arevalo, another student at MLEC.
Those who volunteered to represent the views of the presidential and senatorial candidates did so because they saw the importance of informing the public: “It’s important to inform the public because students like myself need to know about what the future can be like because of our own voices,” said Norat.
All the mock debaters shared that they looked at each party’s platform and their candidates websites to learn about their stances and come up with rebuttals.
“I watched and rewatched and re-rewatched the debates and I ventured into the Republican platform for issues that Rubio had barely voiced his opinion on. I also did my homework and found all of my opponent’s weaknesses and attempted to exploit them,” said Barcelo.
Despite all the research they did for the debate, Zafra learned more from the experience: “I learned that students are less apathetic than I believed them to be. It amazed me to see how excited and energetic people were during the debates. As for myself, I learned that preparation goes a long way,” he said.
Hours after the debates ended, during lunch break, students were given the opportunity to cast a mock vote for both President of the United States and Florida’s next senator. Votes were counted and it was announced that Hillary Clinton won with 80.6 percent of votes and Trump lost with 19.4 percent. Patrick Murphy won with 54.4 percent of the vote to Marco Rubio’s 42.4 percent.
“I hope that voters take highly into consideration exactly what is at stake for generations to come and that they realize how important this election is for Millennials,” said Zafra concerning the outcome of November 8.