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The Floor Was Hers

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It was the question heard round the world, or at least reprinted in several local and Long Island-based newspapers and media websites.

“Congressman Bishop, Mr. Altschuler, as students we are taught not to bully,” said 17-year-old Hampton Bays senior Jennifer Linares during a congressional debate held at Hampton Bays High School on Sept. 24. “If adults wish us to learn to treat each other with dignity and respect, why are both of you running negative ads and sending out negative fliers instead of concentrating on your achievements and accomplishments?”

Jennifer’s question, which was met with stunned silence from incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop and his opponent, Randy Altschuler, sparked deafening applause from the approximately 200 people who had come to hear the debate, sponsored by the Hampton Bays Civic Association. In response, both Bishop and Altschuler agreed that the political mudslinging did exist, even though they would each prefer to campaign on their own merits and the issues.

The question, one of three put together as potential queries from students taking government and economics classes this semester, was chosen by class vote. The other two questions that didn’t make the final cut had to do with alternative energy and taxes, according to government teacher Barbara Corrigan, who explained that the chosen question resonated most deeply with the students.

Jennifer, who volunteered to be the person to represent the 50 Hampton Bays High School students who attended the debate as part of their classroom instruction, plans to major in politics or international studies next year at either New York University or Columbia University.“I definitely wanted to get involved, I really wanted to do it,” she said during an interview at the school a few days after the debate, adding that she feels a bit like a local celebrity because of her moment in the spotlight.
“She jumped out of her chair,” Ms. Corrigan laughed.

Though she won’t be old enough to vote in this year’s elections, Jennifer said that attending the forum whet her appetite for politics, and also informed her about the issues and the candidates.

“I know who I would vote for if I could,” she said. “This experience definitely helped me shape my opinions.”