Harvard Model Congress: Across the Screen

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Screenshot by Daniela Parra del Riego

The Cavalier delegates have a quick meeting after their first day of Harvard Model Congress.

Lucia Chico, Staff Writer

Gables students who are interested in America’s political landscape or are curious about speech and debate are usually given the opportunity to travel to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the annual Harvard Model Congress. This year, like many other events, HMC was held virtually. Nonetheless, Gables was well represented, winning a Best Delegate Award and two Honorable Mentions.

Harvard Model Congress, or HMC, is exactly what it sounds like: a simulation of the American Congress hosted by Harvard University, where students play the role of a senator or representative in different congressional committees, much like in the real world. Students can also participate in special program simulations, by playing roles such as a reporter who covers bills that have been passed in the committees throughout the conference.

In a COVID-19-less year, delegates enjoy traveling to Boston and visiting Harvard, where the conference is held. This year, delegates who participated were unsure as to what to expect from a virtual HMC. The conference was able to run successfully, despite being online. The schedule was tentative, the formality of the conference was preserved and delegates were able to debate and discuss topics with a close facility to what an in-person conference would have allowed. The inexpensive nature of the conference also allowed more students from around the country to attend.

“I was surprised with how smoothly HMC ran this year. I was in the House of Homeland Security and I really enjoyed it. I feel that I was more involved in this year’s committee than I was last year. I helped pass bills and worked with other representatives of the same party. I think the best part about HMC this year was the private chat function because it enabled everyone to constantly work with others and meet new people. It was a lot of fun,” said junior Sabrina Bonavita.

A closer look at the structure of the conference has to be taken before the delegate winners can be introduced. HMC runs over the course of a weekend, Friday to Sunday. Delegates participate in either the House of Representatives, the Senate or a Special Program. Under these institutions, delegates then debate over how to handle one or two topics pertaining to the committee that their role is a part of in real life, with the goal of passing multiple bills by the end of the weekend.

The Cavalier winners from the conference included both Daniela Parra del Riego and Benjamin Pla for the House of Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as Gabriela Magrath for the Media of Special Programs. The Foreign Affairs Committee pertains to the House of Representatives and handles exactly what it hints to with its name: affairs in the international community. The two topics that were discussed for this committee were the crisis in Libya and solving piracy in Guinea.

Parra-del Riego, winner of the Best Delegate award for her committee, prepared for the conference by researching extensively. She focused on researching what past bills Congress had passed on similar issues, the attitude of the United States as a whole with respect to affairs like these and what her role’s policy was like, in essence how she votes and responds to these types of issues.

Parra del Riego made sure to participate throughout the conference. She led her bloc, a group of people that come together to write a bill, and was able to guide the conversation because of her extensive research. Her ultimate goal was to contribute ideas, solutions and leadership of substance; a goal that awarded her the Best Delegate Award.

Benjamin Pla, winner of an Honorable Mention for that same group, offers some different advice for standing out in a committee. Representing the congressman from North Carolina’s sixth district, it was difficult at first to get into character, given that Pla did not agree with the political view that he was representing. It took Pla some time before he could get used to the Congress parliamentary procedure of Model United Nations but in the long run, his extensive experience helped him distinguish himself.

If you let people walk all over you and you do not stand your ground then you likely would not be successful in getting an award. Overall, it is important to be confident, do your research, have factual and to the point speeches, and stick with your party/representative’s stance on the issue,”

— junior Benjamin Pla

Three years of Model U.N. has allowed him to develop speech writing, public speaking, diplomacy and leadership skills. He notes how important it is to feel confident in his speech and ideas; that way, other delegates will be sure to think that he knows what he is talking about. Benjamin Pla also never lets anyone step over him; he claims that the key to success in these types of conferences is reassuring one’s position in their bloc.

Harvard Model Congress also organizes special programs which include model District Court, model Supreme Court, media and more. Freshman Gabriela McGrath participated in the media program where she took on the role of a journalist, writing articles on the bills that were getting passed in her assigned committee — the Climate Crisis Committee. With a passion for the committee and constant dedication, McGrath was able to write articles that stood out to the judges. McGrath received an honorable mention for her work.

Because of their hard work and preparation, the Cavalier delegates were recognized by the conference with distinct awards. The participants of this year’s conference are hopeful that next year, they will be debating in-person, and in Boston.