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By Ashley Hatch, CO, Staff Writer

Fifty years is a recognizable milestone for any ideology or program. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Conference on National Affairs, a time capsule is being assembled.

The seniors who just graduated this year (2017) can sign the outside of the capsule, which has been placed in Eureka Hall. Everyone, including staff and advisers, can add a note to the time capsule. Every person here has the opportunity to share their message to someone 25 years from now.

The project leaders hope the time capsule leaves a legacy for CONA’s 75th anniversary in 2042. To write a note, come to the designated booth in Eureka Hall. A few suggestions include solutions to current proposals, predictions or advice.

Make sure to join in on the 50th anniversary celebration by adding your story to the time capsule!



By Thomas Dannenfelser, VA

In 1789, America’s founding principles we set in ink in the form of the Constitution of the United States of America. Yet today, there exists a great divide in the interpretation of the respected document between scholars, Supreme Court justices, and ordinary citizens. The debate comes down to this: Should the Constitution be interpreted as it was written in 1789 or with a modern twist? There are two trains of thought regarding the issue. One position being the theory of a “living Constitution,”  the other is originalism.

Living Constitution theory is an outlook on the Constitution that allows the meaning of the provisions to change over time. Professor David A. Strauss of Chicago Law School defines the Living Constitution theory as one that, “evolves, changes over time, and adapts to new circumstances, without being formally amended.” President Woodrow Wilson was a prominent supporter of this ideology saying, “The old political formulas do not fit the present problems; they read now like documents taken out of a forgotten age.” Wilson argued that elements of the Constitution were outdated and therefore, a modern interpretation should be applied. Similarly, supporters today say that the Framers failed to mention important issues such as women’s rights, abortion, and immigration, therefore the Constitution, in their eyes, acts as an anachronism to today’s modern issues.

Originalism is the counter to the Living Constitution theory. Ed Whelan is director of a Washington, D.C.-based program called “The Constitution, The Courts, And The Culture.” He articulated the basis of Originalism, saying, “the meaning of various provisions of the Constitution… is to be determined in accordance with the meaning they bore at the time they were promulgated.” Whelan is critical of the idea of a contemporary interpretation, saying “it’s not flexible or adaptable. It entrenches the current preferences of the elites against change.”

Originalists hold that their system allows for consistency when interpreting the Constitution.

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and President Trump’s recent Supreme Court appointee, Neil Gorsuch, are two notable originalists.

The divide between Originalism and Living Constitution Theory is largely a split between progressive and conservative values. This partisanship is seen especially in the configuration of the Supreme Court, in which Living Constitution justices have been appointed by progressive presidents; likewise, conservative presidents have traditionally appointed Originalist justices. The progressive-minded may see the Constitution as antiquated, insisting that the values of the Framers of the Constitution 230 years ago are not in line with the modern reality, while conservatives would say changes can only be made to the Constitution through the amendment process, arguing that the core values of the document are timeless. As one of the most prominent subjects of the modern US era, the debate over Constitutional interpretation is sure to continue.


By Ashley Hatch, CO Staff Writer

For decades mascots have been a symbol of pride for delegations during CONA. Delegations bring them as a way of celebrating their state.

Louisiana has an alligator head. Delegates from South Carolina this week have been seen carrying around a watermelon.

Sadly, this week two of those mascots were stolen, which seems to be a common theme during this and CONA sessions through the years.

First, Alabama’s mascot, Jerry, an orchid, was stolen. The delegates from whom Jerry was stolen then began receiving notes demanding ransom, in this case, delegation pins. The story gets even more perplexing as the delegates try to solve the mystery of who kidnapped Jerry. For more on this story, watch Tuesday’s Blue Ridge Report on YouTube (

Jerry thankfully was reunited with his delegation after he was left on top of an air-conditioning duct at Tuesday night’s dance.

Wisconsin’s cow, Polly, also was kidnapped. The cow has special significance for the delegation, and they definitely need it for the ride home. They also are offering to give the delegation that returns Polly an inflatable cow for ransom.

Delegates who have had their mascots kidnapped wish for their safe return as they are symbolic to their time at CONA.

Overall, mascots are an important part of the pride that each delegation brings from their state to CONA.


By Ashley Hatch, CO, Staff Writer

2017 Presiding Officer Julia Khan started Youth and Government at the middle school level when one day she carpooled with a neighbor to attend a meeting for YAG. During the meeting, Khan felt comfortable and enjoyed that her opinions were taken seriously. The first meeting prompted Khan to continue to come back, and she has now been attending for six years.

Khan offers this advice for delegates: “Every single person at this conference can teach you something important. It’s just up to you to go out and learn from them.” Khan also has an empowering message tailored toward young women: “Everything you have to say is valuable, important, and worth being heard, so don’t second guess yourself!”

Khan wants to share her last experience at CONA by bringing home the unique language spoken on the Mountain and sharing the true compassion that thrives in the conference atmosphere. Khan studies political science and Slavic studies at Barnard College of Columbia University. In the future, Khan wants to pursue a career in intellectual property law.


Ashley Hatch, CO

Raghavendra Pai says he was pressured into Youth and Government by his debate team. Despite initially seeing it as a waste of time, Oklahoma’s State Conference proved to be a life-changing experience as it made him realize that his ideas were valued.
Pai had a chance to go to CONA his freshman year, but could not because his family was going to India that summer. After he declined the offer, Pai made a promise to State Director Stan Barton that he would go to CONA at least once. Sadly, Barton passed away during Pai’s sophomore year, but he kept his promise and went to CONA at the end of that year.

While Pai loved his first CONA experience, he also explains that it was not perfect. As a great presenter and debater, Pai expected his proposal to go all the way to Plenary, yet his proposal failed after Second Committee. Pai then approached CONA fully open to the experience, achieving his goal to present his proposal in Plenary after his junior year. His senior year, he served as an overall leader for his state delegation and was ultimately chosen to serve the conference as a Presiding Officer.
Pai’s goal at CONA this year is to empower the CONA community and himself, which he urges others to do as well. Pai would like to play a part in delegates walking away with the realization they, too, possess potential.
Pai attends Northwestern University where he studies chemical engineering. He aims to get his Ph.D. before working in the renewable energy field where he hopes to make technology for developing nations and help create policies for that technology. He also would like to open a restaurant called Pai’s Pies and aims to one day release several rap singles.

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By Dontay Smithwick, DE

Returning to CONA can be an emotional experience. Hearing your name be called for the second, third, or maybe even fourth time can be exciting, or nerve-racking for some. Delegates who return to the Mountain know that they’ll continue working on an incomplete goal, meet more incredible and passionate people people, or maybe speak more than they did in previous years. Delegates and Presiding Officers alike are thrilled to be a part of the Blue Ridge Spirit once again.

Presiding Officer, Parker Bunton describes how he felt when learning that he would have the opportunity to serve as a PO, “I would definitely say last year when they called my name, it was very shocking. I didn’t think I was going to get it.” Bunton went on to say, “It’s a true honor to sit on the seat, but also I get to come back and definitely make a mark on the conference.” Through Bunton’s enthusiasm while speaking we can tell that this position and the mountain carry great meaning to him.

Colorado delegate Saxon Bryant had an extremely positive reaction to being chosen for CONA again. “When I found out I was going to CONA again I was really excited,” said the two time CONA attendee, “I really enjoyed my experience the first year and I was really happy to go back and share those same experiences with not only with some of the same delegates from my state, but some of my old friends from previous years and also reach out and meet new people. That’s what CONA is all about.” When asked if there is anything he’d do this year he did not do last year, Bryant began by saying that, “It’s kind of out of my control, but I’d like to have my proposal go farther because I really enjoy debating and speaking.” His second point was a self-resolution, “Something else I’d like to do is be a lot less critical of proposals I disagree with. I want to get away from that, because CONA shouldn’t be about this  attacking attitude towards the people or their proposals. These are all ideas that people are passionate about even if I disagree with them.”

Delaware Delegate Lasya Katta spoke about a moment during this year’s conference, “The first time I put my placard up, I had this feeling of excitement and of coming back home,” the three time CONA veteran said. She then took a trip down memory lane, thinking back to her first year. “My first year I was super nervous and I didn’t know what I wanted to say.” Katta spoke about her experience of speaking during CONA as a veteran, “The time I stood up and talked I knew I had the confidence because I’ve gone through this before.” Katta is an extremely confident delegate and she is delighted to be back on the mountain for her third year.

Returning to the mountain can make delegates feel many emotions, but by far the best is the pure joy of having the opportunity to experience the magic of Blue Ridge at least one more time. One of the most amazing things about CONA are these very emotions that can be brought  out in both delegates and Presiding Officers.


By Ashley Hatch, CO

Michigan native Parker Bunton became involved in Youth in Government after his impressive and advanced academic skills convinced his social studies teacher that he would be the perfect fit for YIG. While Bunton had an extensive knowledge set and incredible speaking skills, he was uninterested in YIG. It just did not seem like his calling. Then, during an open house at school, his teacher informed his father of the program. After that, there was no question about it, Bunton’s dad decreed Bunton would be involved in the YIG program. Within the first day of being at Youth in Government, though, Bunton felt as though he was where he belonged and it definitely became a place he actually wanted to be.

He wants new delegates to know that they should never give up. He explains that during his first year, he brought a proposal that did not generate a lot of debate, therefore it did not make it past Second Committee. Bunton gave up on giving speeches and getting called on during debates. The next year, he came back more engaged than ever, and he regretted the moment he gave up the previous year.

Bunton wants to take many happy memories home from his last conference, so that when life gets hard he can look back on this amazing week and know it will make him smile.

Bunton is pursuing a business major in supply chain management. He is working on a congressional campaign currently and is not planning on pursuing politics, although it is always an option.