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By Jack Densmore, TX
Staff Writer
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Bertucci, right, and a fellow supporter celebrate marriage equality in DC.

Joy. Joy of feeling equal. Joy that is equally measured by pride. Pride in being oneself. Pride in being equal. Pride in being able to see history take place.

Pride and joy is what Michigan Gov. Dominic Bertucci felt when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. After many debates and many arguments throughout the years, history was made for an entire generation to see. Bertucci happened to stand where this history took place.

“I was (glad to be there),” Bertucci said. “It was historic. This is a really proud and happy moment, and I am so happy I was able to be there.”
Outside of the Supreme Court, supporters of same-sex marriage gathered around. The Michigan delegation took a trip to the Supreme Court before coming to CONA.
“It was indescribable,” Bertucci said. “There were so many people who were just so happy, and there was such an energy around us that I can’t even describe. … I had such a connection with everybody even though we were complete and total strangers.”
For years, same-sex marriage supporters have waited for marriage rights. Friday, they finally got their wish, and a flurry of profile pictures on Facebook were changed to have rainbow effects in support of equality.
“It was definitely overdue,” Bertucci said. “I’m happy it came now better late than never.” With any topic there is always opposition, and there are those who put people down because of who they are. For Bertucci, the opposition never affected him.
“There were always people who had bad things to say, but they were always irrelevant,” Bertucci said. “I blew them off, it didn’t matter much to me.”
Now any couple can marry who they want, and Bertucci has been greatly impacted by the decision.
“It had and will continue to have a pretty big impact, and being there made it all the more a big deal,” Bertucci said. “Now everyone has the freedom to marry whom they choose.”
In the end, the United States has made a huge decision. Bertucci, and many others have said that this is a proud moment for the country.
“I feel all around great,” Bertucci said. “It’s such a proud and happy moment for our country. Couples now have the right to marry, and that’s a right that they’ve been waiting for.”
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By Olivia Cornforth, OK

2751691807_dbcebbaa69_zRecently, much attention has surrounded the removal of Confederate flags from state grounds and merchandise resale centers across the country. Walmart, eBay and Amazon are among the corporations that removed products featuring the flag from their shelves, and the colors were taken down from flagpoles across the country. The place of the Confederate battle flag in modern America has been largely contested for years, but the current inflammation of the subject is largely attributed to this month’s tragic shooting in Charleston.

The controversy over the flag rests heavily on two opposing viewpoints. One side sees it as a glorification of the institution of slavery and other injustices, and the other sees it as a symbol of regional pride and dignity. The flag is prevalent in many areas of the southern United States and has been for generations.

“Personally, I find it offensive that the flags are still up,” LydiaPaige Moffett of Alabama said. “I feel like the flags should have gone down when the Confederates lost the war, not generations later. I think it’s a part of history, but I don’t think it’s a part of now.”

After the recent removal of the flag at the South Carolina Capitol by an equal rights activist, the debate on the flag’s position in society seems to be at the highest level it has been in years.

“I think it’s an important part of history,” Max Makin from Washington said. “I don’t know if it should be flown from a state Capitol building, but I think it’s an important part of the South and their regional pride, which they’ve had for a long time. So I’m not really sure where I stand on whether it should be flown, but I think it holds a lot of importance for a lot of people, and not necessarily because of the reasons many people associate it with.”

“I feel like it is celebrated as a regional pride way, but also it’s a symbol for racism and oppressive things,” Tyra Wilson of Alabama said. “If that equates with Southern pride, it’s bothersome to me.”

The controversy over the usage of the Confederate flag is not over, but hopefully our nation can find a balance between retaining regional pride and moving forward into the 21st century. It is always important to remember where we came from, but it is also important to remember where we are going. Now, it is America’s duty to determine if it wants the flag to hold a place in its future.

By Olivia Cornforth
Staff Writer
Delegates compare notes on their first day at CONA. --photo by Benjamin Hearn

Delegates compare notes on their first day at CONA.
— Photo by Benjamin Hearn

As a new session of the YMCA Conference on National Affairs unfolds, dozens of delegates climb the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains for their first conference. For many, stepping off the bus is a critical moment in the beginning of an amazing experience. The drive was long, but when I got here the view was great,” Maxx Cook of Missouri said.
From swapping shirts and pins with delegates from other states to getting up early in order to enjoy a few quiet moments on the porch of Eureka Hall, the first day of CONA is laden with new and unforgettable experiences. Despite some nervousness and initial intimidation, first-year delegates find ways to step out of their comfort zones and join in the fun.
“I’ve met such amazing people on this trip,” Michelle Adams of California said. “I’m astounded to see how spiritual, intellectual and exciting people are. I’m hoping to get more knowledge on other people’s opinions and their perspectives on things.”
On Sunday, new delegates bustled to their first proposal sharing group, the introductory step in the proposal presenting process. “I’m confident that everyone will blossom out of their shells during this experience, and hopefully I get to see that respected in a new way,” Adams said. “I want to see people cross party lines, racial lines, and just get out of their comfort zones. I’m excited for the opportunity to share my thoughts in a safe place.”

First-year delegates can feel the famous Blue Ridge Spirit. The friendliness of delegates and their willingness to listen to other perspectives are characteristics of CONA and the expanded comfort zone it creates. First-year attendees, like all other attendees, have an opportunity to participate in something life changing. As far as experiences go, first year delegates and returning delegates alike can agree that there is infinite potential in the upcoming week.

PlacardsBy Sonay Barazesh, NJ
BRJ Staff Writer
For almost five decades, hundreds of delegates have gathered at the Blue Ridge Assembly to partake in the Conference on National Affairs. Any delegate who has attended CONA can vouch for the unique experience of this week, which includes iconic Eureka Treats, seersucker suits and the “Blue Ridge Spirit.” This year marks the 48th conference. Up to 25 delegates from each of 40 states will gather. A record 772 delegates and adults from all over the country are expected to be in attendance this year. What makes CONA such a special experience is arguably the different delegates and world events each year. New Jersey Youth Governor Nick Pellitta will be attending his third conference this year and feels that every CONA he has attended was unique. “The Blue Ridge Spirit manifests itself in different ways almost every year,” he said. “Last year saw the World Cup going on during conference and being able to watch a USA game with a ton of other delegates and cheer together really brought us together.”
Last year’s conference was certainly memorable for Pellitta and many other delegates, but historically, there has been something different about every year. For example, in 1988, a French delegation attended the conference and, in 1989, a Soviet delegation attended as well. Throughout the years, CONA has expanded to include a consistent Model United Nations delegation and District of Columbia delegation.
While this year’s conference will make CONA history in its own unique way, some aspects of the mountain remain consistent year after year. As “Carolina in the Morning” plays at every crack of dawn and as delegates chat over Eureka treats, guests at the Blue Ridge Assembly know that the 48th year of conference will stay in the memory of delegates for years to come.

MapBy Cassidy DeStefano, MUN Delegation
BRJ Staff Writer

This year, the mountain welcomes seven more state groups than last year, propelling the total state count to 40.

According to CONA program director Sam Adams, four states currently lacking YIG programs on their home turf will join together in a coalition called the Ambassador Delegation. The group will comprise students from Alaska, Utah, Nevada and Rhode Island.

“There are nine students in the Ambassador Delegation,” Adams said. “The plan is for them to learn more about Youth in Government and go back home to work with their YMCA on establishing or reestablishing a program.”

He added that the remaining 36 groups are divided into full and multi-state categories contingent upon how many delegates enroll. Multi-state groups contain fewer than five delegates and encompass Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Oregon.

Alaska, Nevada, and Utah are the newly christened delegations, while Colorado, Hawaii, Georgia and Rhode Island return after an absence. Distance and affordability helps to determine the medium that each respective delegation used to reach conference.

Adams added that the criteria for creating new delegations is simple. Ambassador Delegation exempt, the states seeking to attend must host a YMCA-sponsored Youth in Government program.

“There is no approval process on our end,” he said.

The official website states that CONA delegates are handpicked from a pool of approximately 50,000 students that participate in YIG programs.

New states will be mentioned at opening ceremonies at the outdoor amphitheater, and will join in the procession of flags alongside longstanding delegations.

Nine out of 10 Plenary session proposals passed during the 2011 YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs.

The nine proposals that passed were:

  • 254 by Evan Ford, Tennessee, which prohibits collective bargaining with public school teachers
  • 547 by Maria Peeples, Wisconsin, which provides federal funding for emergency contraception for sexual assault victims
  • 118 by Zara Mohidin, California, which gives constitutional protection for obscene speech
  • 162 by Shannon McDermott, Minnesota, which restricts factory farms and allows cap and trade on small farm waste
  • 357 by Steven Ganshaw, North Carolina, and Jalen Chapman, New York, which mandates organ harvesting
  • 99 by Tyler Gross, Michigan; Sarah Brophy, Delaware; and Melissa Weaver, Mississippi, which excludes sexual history as a screening mechanism for blood and sperm donation
  • 68 by Dylan Slinger, Minnesota, which provides less money for the general defense and more funding for urgent military action
  • 549 by Katie Cronmiller, Wisconsin, which stops federal funding for purity balls
  • 429 by Tucker Cholvin, Washington, which creates a cycled regional presidential primary system

The lone failed proposal was 537 by Sam Ingalls, Louisiana, which would have repealed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. Congratulations to all of the proposal authors who made it to Plenary!

With the recent acquittal of Florida Mother, Casey Anthony, Oklahoma Representative Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, District 65,  and Senator Ralph Shortey R-South Oklahoma City, District 44, have begun drafting legislation in regard towards an increased penalty against failure to report a death of a person under an individual’s care. We were lucky to receive an opportunity to interview the Representatives over their recent propositions.