North Carolina representatives do not often get the chance to hear directly from their constituents, but the goal of this event was just that: to amplify student voices from within the walls of our classrooms to the chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly.
The Institute of Politics provided a unique opportunity for students to be heard during a Reverse Town Hall on Gun Violence in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center on Sunday evening. The “reverse” aspect of the event refers to the style of the conversation — rather than the typical dynamic of policymakers fielding questions from audience members, this discussion gave legislators the opportunity to ask questions to their youngest constituents. It was a time for these politicians to listen, not speak.
“I think it is important to have a civil, fact-based, policy-based discussion with student leaders and organizers with actual members of the General Assembly and being able to hopefully find common ground, but also work through differences when necessary,” said Austin Hahn, member of UNC’s Young Democrats. “I think everyone has the same goal to end gun violence, and I also think talking through that and seeing our different options moving forward is really important.”
Student organizations represented on the panel included: Ravenscroft School Youth and Government Chapter, UNC Black Student Movement, Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club, Lake Norman Charter School, NC Teen Democrats, Triangle People Power, UNC College Republicans, Richlands High School and more.
"Listening to the eloquent students from across the state gave everyone in the audience hope about the direction of our state," said sophomore and IOP member Lucy Russell. "The students embraced tough topics with eloquence and passion, yet still found areas of common ground."