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Masters School Student Treks to DC for Obamacare Debate

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. — As a student of the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, I am surrounded by peers who have a strong sense of social awareness and intellectual curiosity. I consider myself one of them. That is why I cut school on Tuesday and headed for Washington, D.C., to be a witness to history.

I went to cover the Supreme Court’s deliberations over the implementation of America’s first attempt at universal healthcare, Obamacare. I became interested in the issue when, in the car to school one day, my mother was inspired by something a reporter said on NPR and went on a five-minute rant about our nation’s healthcare system, or lack thereof. I did some research. The legitimacy of all her facts was debatable, but one element of her argument could not have been more valid: frustration. All kinds of Americans, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea Partiers, Liberals, have been frustrated about healthcare since before Obama’s election in 2008, and still are.

At first, it seemed simple to me; Americans wanted healthcare, so Obama listened and created it. However, once I gathered a more detailed understanding of both the law and the various lenses distinct groups would be likely to view the law from, controversy and complexity seemed unavoidable. I had been toying with the idea of going to D.C. to witness the arguments and write about them for days, but I didn’t make the final decision to go until halfway through my school day on Monday. Something gripped me; I knew I had to be there.

When I took the $17 Bolt Bus from New York to D.C., I really didn’t know what to expect. Regardless, I was filled with the kind of vigor and anticipation only chasing a story can instill in me. Four hours after leaving New York, I arrived at Union Station, moderately intimidated by the task ahead, but mostly thrilled to be there, to be in the place where surely my questions would be answered. Upon arriving at the Supreme Court building that night, it became apparent that the story could write itself.

I interviewed Ben Wofford, a college student from Philadelphia, who had been on line to get into court for nearly four hours, and was planning on sleeping outside to hold his spot in line. When asked about his motivation to camp out and attend the oral arguments, he said, “For every cliché, there is a grain of truth, and my cliché is that I want to tell my grandchildren about this. It’s that kind of moment.”

It was engaging to hear Wofford say that, because, although when wearing my objective journalist hat I am not allowed to voice my own personal convictions, I did agree with him. The most intriguing part of going to a protest isn’t necessarily determining which standpoint is correct, or even the specific issue itself, but rather the concept that true passion does exist in America. Despite the reputation of apathy we (particularly teenagers) have constructed for ourselves, there are still people from all walks of life, young and old, who are politically aware and motivated enough to express themselves. The energy that kind of dynamic interaction yields is a melting pot of distinct viewpoints, backgrounds and concerns.

I also spoke to political enthusiast Chase Estrin, who remarked, “I am here to flex my American muscles and observe true democracy.”

True democracy is right. As corroborated via the impassioned protests, discussions, and arguments that went on the next morning, there was an indisputably wholehearted demonstration of democracy outside the Supreme Court, from both sides. As one protestor buoyantly boomed through a loudspeaker, “This is what democracy looks like!”


Johanna Costigan is a 16-year-old junior at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry. She serves as the news editor of her school newspaper and has been writing for the newspaper since her freshman year.

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