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While Second Committee came to a close Monday evening, a proposal driven by one delegate’s life story made a lasting impact that many delegates will carry with them long after they have left The Mountain. Missouri delegate Elaine Badr has changed Committee X, and in turn, the delegates of her committee changed her as well.

Elaine’s Proposal 518 seeks to turn vacant federal buildings into havens for homeless people where they could live and cite the residence as an address in order to open the door to jobs and a better life.

“We have $1.7 billion of taxpayer money going into these vacant buildings, which is unacceptable,” Elaine explained. “So what I am trying to do is get these vacant buildings, which are up to code, and allow the homeless to move in so they can have an address.”

Elaine’s proposal stems from her past and her own family’s struggle. Her mother left her father when they were very young, and dropped everything to move from California to Saint Louis, MO, in hopes of finding a better life for them; her family’s move did not come without hardship. Elaine found herself in the shoes of other people struggling to put a roof over their heads. “We could have been homeless. We could have just been moving from shelter to shelter,” Elaine said.

“This proposal touches home with me. I just want to make sure that people who have dealt with issues like [homelessness] get the chance they deserve, because I got the chance and not many people do.”

Elaine Badr on her personal story

Shortly after Committees X and W combined to create a Second Committee, Elaine felt sick and returned to her room to rest. Despite falling ill during Second Committee, she returned to present her proposal at the encouragement of her peers, determined not to let her proposal and story die. Through tears and sickness, she delivered her proposal, touching many hearts in the committee and moving other delegates to tears. When she finished, the room erupted in applause, standing to thank her and cheer her on.

Delegate Hersh Pareek of Wisconsin was one of the delegates present at the event and was deeply moved by her speech. “We could all really relate to her kind of story,” Hersh stated. “It is very touching and really hits home.” The way the whole committee came together truly struck him, and he claimed it was the “best experience he has had in a committee.”

“She just made it seem so emotional and real to everybody. I’ve had the honor to have her in all three committees,” delegate Mallory Williams of Oklahoma stated. “She made my first year here really amazing.”

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A group from Committee X gathers for a group photo. “I couldn’t ask for a better family,” said Elaine Badr

While the delegates were moved by Elaine’s story, she was truly impacted by the love and support they showed her. While her proposal did not move onto Third Committee, Elaine said, “I am just so appreciative that I had [my First Committee] there to inspire me to be the best person I could be.”

By Erin Gretzinger, WI

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Emily Hughes arrived on The Mountain with a proposal that has caught the attention of delegates around the country. To bring attention to the ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor, Hughes sets forth a radical plan to balance out the classes: a simple coin toss.

Hughes is a Michigan delegate with high hopes to bridge the gap between the wealthiest people in America and those struggling to scrap together pennies, bringing attention to her cause with a flip of a coin. Hughes’ Proposal 94 provides that any individual in the top 1 percent of wealth can be challenged to a coin toss by any individual in the bottom 50 percent. If the initiator of the coin toss wins, the individual from the top one percent must pay $10,000. If the individual from the top one percent wins, they owe the challenger nothing.

“A lot of people are shocked by the whole coin thing,” Hughes said. “I just want people to be aware of how much money is in the top one percent and how their money could change so many lives in America.”

Emily by Erin

Emily Hughes, MI, draws attention to the wealth gap. PHOTO by Erin Gretzinger, WI

The idea for her proposal rose out of personal hardship, research and a desire for change. Hughes comes from a house that has always been tight on money. Motivated by this, Hughes began to explore equality in wealth in America, and she was shocked by what she discovered. While the top 1 percent spend money on golden toothpicks and shoelaces, Americans below the poverty line struggle to survive. The stories she found struck a chord in her, and her mission became to spread awareness of the wealth gap growing right underneath our noses.

While she recognizes her proposal is not practical, she encourages delegates to look beyond the coin toss at the issue at hand.

“There was a moment yesterday where people said, ‘I didn’t know they let jokes into CONA,’ and I want to get across that it is not a joke. I want people to realize how important this wealth gap is,” Hughes said. “It is a system that is definitely broken and it needs a little bit of oil to fix it.”

Whether the proposal moves on is not her objective, but rather to tell the story of Americans living in poverty and entice others to take a stand on the issue. Hughes hopes the people at this conference can provide the oil to get a solution to the wealth gap rolling.  

By Erin Gretzinger, WI