Mary Gay Scanlon Visits Haven for Town Hall


Luke Mandel, Online Editor

On Friday, May 31st, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon visited Strath Haven to answer questions and encourage discussion about various political topics within the school environment. This was the first event organized by the Committee for Educational Speakers, a new group at Strath Haven that plans to invite professors, artists, activists, authors, and others to speak throughout the year for anyone interested in an extra educational opportunity, beginning next year.
The town hall forum took place during fourth block and many teachers permitted their classes to attend, nearly filling the auditorium. The senior class, however, was dismissed early from school for prom that evening, so many were not in attendance.
The hour-long event was organized by a team of students led by junior Luke Mandel with Evan Hoffman and sophomores Ava Dijstelbloem, Noa Dijstelbloem, and Mira Patel. Following approval by Dr. Palmer and Dr. Brown and the town hall was originally slated for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, however, the Congresswoman declined the invitation from the Committee for Educational Speakers. As a result, the team worked hard over the past two months to invite Scanlon, plan the meeting, and advertise with the goal of exposing students to political thought and action.
Scanlon represents the 5th Congressional District, which includes all of Delaware County, some of Montgomery County, and some of southern Pennsylvania. She was also the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District School Board President from 2009-2011.
Students and teachers alike came up to the podium in front of the stage to ask questions with topics ranging from educational policy to abortion regulation. People who elected not to read their own questions were able to have their questions read by a panel, and questions were given by senior Lindsay Belliveau, juniors Nick Cardow, Ryan Driscoll, Evan Hoffman, Patrick Kirk, Clay Lebuhn, Will Lee, and Luke Mandel, sophomores Noa Dijstelbloem, Abby DiNardo, Nate Linderman, Zaina Maqbool, Nina Mesyngier, and Mira Patel, and freshman Zoe Feinberg. Questions were collected through a Google Survey in addition to coming from selected teachers Mrs. Miriam Drew, Mr. Kevin Haney, Mr. Tom Babcock, and Ms. Kate Plows.
The audience’s reaction to the event were generally positive. Many thought that Scanlon’s answers to each question were engaging and comprehensive. Also noted was Scanlon’s respectful attitude towards each speaker, regardless of how difficult the question was to answer.
Feinberg explained how she appreciated the chance to talk to a representative with the ability to make change. “I’m very interested in activism and political issues,” Feinberg said. “Being able to voice my concerns to someone in a position of power who can help make positive changes to legislation was a really great experience.”
Some audience members, however, weren’t completely satisfied by all of Scanlon’s answers. “There were one or two questions that I thought she kind of shied away from and didn’t want to give a definitive answer for, like the one about whether college should be free or not” said sophomore Lily Marks. “Overall, I thought it was an interesting and worthwhile experience, though.”
Scanlon pointed repeatedly to her frustration over gerrymandering, the criminal justice system, and gun regulation as her motivation to run for Congress. She spoke passionately about her determination to get money out of politics, and more specifically about her support for HR1, a bill that would federalize the funding of elections.
Scanlon also put to rest a rumor that she did not support Net Neutrality, an Obama era policy generally supported by Democrats, that spread due to the fact that her second largest campaign contributor was Comcast. Scanlon explained how it was an oversight on her part, but not indicative of her position on the issue, and that she has since signed on to legislation supporting Net Neutrality.
The town hall was, overall, a success, with an enthusiastic and supportive audience and a series of sincere questions.