By Lane Page
lpage@patuxent.com
Posted 6/12/08

15 MINUTES

By popular vote or delegate count, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were running neck and neck for the
Democratic party presidential nomination, but imagine the brouhaha if they had come up with exactly the
same number of delegates?

Thus it turned out in Annapolis for Matt Emery, of Fulton, and his opponent for the position of speaker of the
Assembly of the Maryland Student Legislature during its annual spring session.

In fact, their race was the only one for the six statewide offices in which there was opposition, and when the
votes came in as an exact tie, “we both looked like we were run over by a Mack truck,” McDaniel College
rising junior Emery recalls with a laugh.

And this even after offering plum committee chairmanships and vice-chairmanships in exchange for support,
too.

Easy for him to say now, since the two candidates negotiated a settlement and when the dust cleared Emery
was the winner, having offered his opponent a co-speaker role to take over when he needed a break or
descended to the floor to debate legislation.

That’s politics for you.

MSL is a 19-year-old 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation that brings together students from colleges throughout the
state to write, research and debate issues of local, state and national importance.

These can range from the serious — for instance, cell phone use while driving (as the actual legislature
considered this past session), energy independence, use of torture (both far beyond a state’s purview in real
life) — to the silly, such as declaring Coca-Cola the state’s official soft drink (not adopted). But that’s politics,
too.
Meanwhile, College of Notre Dame of Maryland rising senior Becky Jones, of Ellicott City, was a sort of John
McCain of her contest, with no opposition for the elected office of Attorney General.

Maybe that’s because as legal council for all proceedings (for instance, whether a proposed amendment is
germane) and editor of all legislation, the AG needs intricate knowledge of parliamentary procedure and
Roberts’ Rules of Order, yet can’t get down on the floor to debate.

Alas, “I wanted to talk about the health problems associated with nuclear energy. I had just done a paper on
it and I had all the background,” she says with regret.

The Centennial High School graduate is really not an authoritarian personality, she maintains; Jones just likes
working behind the scenes, although depending on the issues she’s certainly up for debate, when it’s legal.
Emery, on the other hand, finds it’s the debate that makes the whole effort fun.

“For us (political science) nerds, it’s the highlight of the week,” he says of the regular meetings on campus
during the school year, which produce the legislation to be introduced during the annual session.

Maybe that’s why, along with a resolution about winning the war on drugs, he introduced another concerning
the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, who suspended the Constitutional right of habeas corpus and ignored the
Supreme Court. Thus, Emery proposed, his picture on the fiver should be replaced by someone more upright,
perhaps Thomas Edison or Daniel Webster.

It’s not the play but the debate that’s the thing.”It’s strange when you go from death penalties to crab cakes,”
says Jones, whose Notre Dame delegation introduced a resolution concerning non-biodegradable plastic bags.
Something she’d like to accomplish during her final year as a student legislator is to get all students some
academic credit for their MSL labors (McDaniel students get two credit hours while Notre Dame students earn
none).

Perhaps recalling that project on nuclear energy, Jones says of the program, “It’s a way to use our college
education instead of just taking tests and writing papers. You gain a lot of self-confidence in speaking. You
have to be able to get up and speak your mind.”

Maryland is one of only eight states with such a program, Emery was surprised to discover.

In addition to meetings, MSL offers leadership training institutes and interim assemblies on campus each
semester, all of which culminates in the annual spring session held at the State House in Annapolis.
Alas, what with days that run from 8:30 a.m. to 9, 10 or even 11 at night, there’s not much time for doing
the town, although McDaniel’s delegation included a lot of out-of-state students who clearly needed to be
shown around, Emery says.

Both the Howard County residents, as it turns out, are contemplating some sort of international direction to
their careers, Emery looking at the United Nations, Jones particularly interested in developing countries. And
why not? They already have things at the state and national levels under control.