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A Message from the Media Director

By Jessica Ayers
CONA Media Director

If I ever decide to write the “Great American novel,” I will demand to write from Lee Hall porch, in the summer months, when I can see mountains. While my future editor might be less than thrilled about this, I will maintain that there is a secret ingredient in the air (or maybe the red drink) that allows me to not hate what I manage to put on paper.
As the conference approached more rapidly than I thought was possible last week, I found myself hating every “OMG! Blue Ridge in 3 days!” (usually with varying emoticons) status that caught my eye. I was no longer approaching CONA with the simple principle of: stay busy. I was expected to be a leader. I was expected to somehow convey that if you refuse to be bored, and take advantage of the truly active role being a media delegate provides, that between golf cart rides, bean counting observations, and presiding officer interviews, this conference can change you.
Fortunately, the dedication and creative achievements of the media corps this year made my anxiety moot. Never before have I worked with a team that works so hard, creates such original content, and participates so veraciously in the spirit of CONA. Never before have we produced an edition of The Blue Ridge Journal Sunday night, or packaged a story for a state broadcasting channel, or had an honest conversation about how to solve problems in our states throughout the year. Do not forget what you did this week. If you return home and find something that could improve in your press program, do not forget that you can be the one to change it.
At the end of my first year at CONA in 2008, my editor gave us each a journal. Inside mine was a quote from Gilbert Chesterton she thought was appropriate to what we had done that week. It said: “Journalism largely consists of saying ‘Lord James is dead’ to people who have never known that Lord James was alive.”
But, isn’t that applicable to what we are all trying to do here? We are all trying to say something through a proposal, or newspaper article, or devotion that we think the rest of the world should know. And, in my opinion, if the rest of the world conducted their affairs from the view I’m looking at right now, I’m pretty sure everything would be a little better.

By Valencia Harper, Ohio

Presiding Officer Kate Wagner, a student at Washington University in St. Louis, feels so incredibly lucky to be one of the few delegates to be granted an extra year on the mountain. As PO, she said she finds it easier to be herself and put into practice her passion for politics and current events. Being a PO has been a different experience for Wagner. She doesn’t necessarily know if she prefers being a PO over a delegate. “Sometimes it is hard to hold my tongue during debate!” she said. But this week has been an awesome experience. Wagner’s favorite General Assembly highlight was being able to listen completely to the debate. She said she heard many memorable statements. Her favorite moment was passage of the civil union proposal by Kahn Brach from D.C. She says it is such a relevant issue with the recent activity in New York State.
The favorite proposal she has written was last year’s proposal to require ingredient lists in restaurants. She liked this because it was widely supported also; it was the most personal to her. “A few months before writing my proposal, I was diagnosed with fructose intolerance after 10 years without diagnosis. My adjustment to my fructose-free diet was the inspiration for the proposal.”
Debate has been impressed with the delegates, who have been extremely eager to be heard. When she worked in Heaton GA, they extended debate more than once. “I hope you all are enjoying the debate as much as I am,” Wagner said. “It is difficult to avoid spirit fingers as so many great ideas come forth!”

By Jessie High, Oklahoma

2011 Presiding Officer Ryan Ray is currently attending his third year at CONA and is among the many who call this conference home. Ryan currently attends college at the University of Tennessee and will surely, along with the other POs, miss everything they’ve experienced.
Ray’s favorite proposal he’s presented would reform alcohol advertisement regulations. “I felt strongly about the topic, and it was highly debated,” he said. Meeting people from all over the country, especially those with different viewpoints “will always be the most cherished part of CONA for me,” he said.
Being a PO teaches qualities necessary to be a leader and several other values. PO Ryan is definitely no exception. Ray said, “I hope that I have grown in servant leadership, broadened my horizons and grown in confidence as a speaker.”
We all can agree that as a PO, Ray has most certainly achieved his goals.

By Eric Storlie, Wisconsin

Some CONA media delegates were given an opportunity not many are given; the chance to directly influence the development of real state legislation. CONA Adviser and Oklahoma Rep. Joe Dorman is currently working with Oklahoma Sen. Ralph Shortey, a former CONA delegate and CONA adviser, on developing a bill that would create penalties for not reporting the death of anyone in your care in a reasonable amount of time. The idea for this bill arose out of the recent decision in the Casey Anthony case, in which there was no punishment for not reporting the death of a child for 31 days.
Dorman has been speaking with delegates over the course of CONA this year, and says that their input has greatly influenced how he will go forward with his state bill. The proposed legislation cannot be filed or discussed until next February, and so, Dorman and Shortey will have several months to continue their work. The bill ultimately could fix what Dorman called a shortcoming in state law, which truly is the point of CONA; the finding of faults in our governmental system and subsequently finding ways to fix those faults.
When Oklahoma media contacted their state legislators about this proposed legislation, the two CONA advisers offered to send the reporters taped interviews on their positions on this proposed legislation. CONA media delegates interviewed the state legislators, packaged the interviews and sent them to a number of media outlets in Oklahoma for broadcast today or later in the week.
One aspect of the CONA program that concerns Dorman is the apparently negative attitudes delegates have taken when discussing politicians. He believes that the view that politicians are crooked and do not wish to serve the people whom elected them is a poor view to uphold. “Taking a negative approach will never fix the problem,” he said.
Having state legislators at CONA formulating legislation is a unique and interesting development, and one which could benefit the CONA program for years to come. Keep a close eye out for Dorman and Shortey’s bill, coming up in Oklahoma in February.

By Akayla Mazza, MUN

2011 Presiding Officer Stephanie Pinkalla served as a CONA delegate for three years. When she attended the conference as a delegate, none of her proposals made it past Third Committee. Her favorite proposal was on a child credit system, where every American was allowed only two children, but could trade their child “credit” to someone else so that they were allowed four children.

Her best CONA memory is “definitely the hike, and that breathtaking view at the top of the Mountain.” She currently is a sophomore at the College of St. Johns in northern Minnesota, where she drives a black Kia Sportage nicknamed “Lia the Kia.”

If she could have done anything differently about CONA, she says she wishes she “wouldn’t have waited until my last year to really talk in committee” and would have tried to “make more connections,” and “stayed closer in touch with all of the amazing people that I met.”

One of her favorite parts about being a presiding officer is seeing all the strange behavior delegates exhibit. “This one kid pulled out his piece of gum, wrapped it around his ear, and stuck it back inside his mouth,” she said.

Outside of CONA, her interests include “just being outside.” She adds that she loves to hike and kayak. An interesting fact about her is that she only uses blue pens. “I do have a purple pen that I use sometimes, but only rarely,” and “it always bothers me when I start writing something in blue pen and then Joe comes over and adds on to it in a black pen.”

She advises all delegates to cherish the friends they make here, and to stay in touch once you leave the Mountain.

By Shannon Payne, Virginia

On Wednesday afternoon, exhausted CONA delegates were given a rare chance to just kick back, relax and forget about debate for a few hours. During this time, activities included a trip to the Biltmore Estate, a belly flop contest, a dance party hosted by Tennessee and even a well-deserved nap.
About 100 delegates loaded up on three buses at 12:30 p.m. and set off for the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned home in the country. No pictures were allowed inside of the building, but delegates still had a great time.
“It’s definitely one of the more underrated activities,” said Mariah Corso from Pennsylvania, “Usually everyone wants to go on the hikes, but Biltmore’s much better than anyone makes it sound. And the milkshakes were really good!”
At 2 p.m., the smell of competition filled the air as delegates crowded the pool to watch a group of teen-agers subject themselves to extreme pain, in hopes of winning a Eureka Treat and the title of CONA 2011 Belly Flop Champion. Competitors lined up to represent their delegations (Wisconsin boasted four of the nine floppers, plus two for exhibition) and sexes. Sole female competitor Caity Battey, MUN, fought hard against the guys and made it to the semifinal with the second-highest score. In the end, however, victory went to Jacob Kelly, Wis., who out-flopped fellow finalist Joseph Katt, Va.
“I competed in support of Wisconsin’s teachers and public workers,” said Kelly when asked about his motivation. Meanwhile, and following the contest, many delegates merely enjoyed splashing around the pool with their friends. In the nearby gym, the East Coast and West Coast competed in a basketball game, the winner of which remains unclear, and varies depending on who one asks. Additionally, CONA’s dedicated Frisbee-ers took the opportunity to play even more Ultimate Frisbee.
Throughout the afternoon, passersby may have heard the music blasting from the porch of Abbott Hall. Here, the Tennessee delegation provided food and fun to their fellow delegates, who took full advantage of the occasion.
“It was fun,” commented Lauren McCrea, MUN, one of many delegates to stop by the party, “Everything was great; I had a really good time.”
Many delegates were disappointed to hear that the much-anticipated hikes were canceled due to potential inclement weather. As a replacement, delegates had the option of watching The Incredibles and 28 Days. In the end, however, the sun shone brightly on Black Mountain. When asked about the change in weather, Thomas Brown of Indiana expressed his discontent.
“This was my last year on the Mountain and my last chance to go on the hike, and now I won’t get to.”
“I took a four-hour nap,” said Kaitlyn Walden from Virginia of her afternoon activity choice. “That was the most satisfying nap of my entire life.”

Ashley Fisher, Indiana

10.) Electric Slide, Power Ride
9.) No Taxation without Representation
8.) Providing Private Sector Union Rights to Government Employees
7.) An Act to End Scarcity
6.) An Act to Legalize Euthanasia
5.) Create specialized TSA Standards for Children Under the age of twelve
4.) Strengthen laws, fines, and penalties on DUI and DWI offenders
3.) Abolish the use of all artificial Sweeteners in the United States
2.) Incentives for Domestic Adoption from outlawing Abortion
1.) Expanding/Promoting Nuclear Energy in the United States