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Civility Rules in OCHS Great Presidential Debate

State Rep. Jeff Stone and state Sen. Chris Larson took part in Oak Creek High School's first-ever "Great Presidential Debate" Wednesday at the Oak Creek Community Center.

Though the presidential debates are in the rearviewmirror, Oak Creek High School put on its own version Wednesday afternoon.

State Sen. Chris Larson and state Rep. Jeff Stone played the roles of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the school's "Great Presidential Debate" at the Oak Creek Community Center.

It was the first time Oak Creek High School has put on such a debate, which was a joint effort between the Young Democrats and Young Republicans.

Unlike the real presidential debates, civility ruled the day and personal attacks were nonexistent. With the nation polarized over the campaign, Wednesday's event provided a welcome reprieve.

"We have to give people credit — they can hear opposing viewpoints," event coordinator Dave Liccione said. "It was not a divisive event whatsoever, it was a unifying event. It's what we all agree about — democracy, people power, popular sovereignty, the will of the majority."

The Young Republican and Young Democrat clubs developed the questions, mixing in domestic and foreign issues. The debate tackled subjects as weighty as abortion to recently-issued guidelines on national school lunches, allowing students to get a taste of each candidate's position.

Some of the representatives' answers also showcased general differences in philosophy between the two parties.

School lunches, for example, have not been a hot topic in the presidential campaign, but the candidates differed on how much government should be involved. Larson defended the new guidelines, saying it was important to start "healthy habits not just at home, but in schools," while Stone said the issue "shouldn't be driven top-down from the federal government."

"We had a well-aired debate of where the platforms are and where they differed," Larson said afterward. "I think for people that wanted to take a good, honest approach of, 'OK, what are the differences between the two candidates,' I think we succeeded in doing that."

Stone said the forum gave him a different perspective from representing his own views in his own election.

"When someone criticizes you, it feels a little different," Stone said with a laugh.

Senior Marissa Maldonado and freshman Kelsey Siggelkow moderated the debate as representatives of the Young Republicans and Young Democrats, respectively.

Maldonado said a lot of research went into preparing the questions, which required bipartisanship and working together with the Young Democrats.

"Sometimes you bump heads because you start talking about the questions and the issues, and then you start debating," she said. "But it actually went really well."

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