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A More Perfect Political Union

From the onset of their freshman year, Sam Kleiner and Jacob Wertz knew they didn't agree on most political issues — Kleiner a conservative, and Wertz on the left. Yet the two friends have always enjoyed the discussions they had living together at the Public Affairs Residential College.

Over the last couple years the two realized there wasn't much of an outlet for student dialogue and debate, so by spring quarter of their junior year, they founded the Northwestern Political Union.

"We're trying to use issues people care about and trying to give them a forum," said Wertz, a School of Education and Social Policy senior.

Every week, about 25 to 40 students (the largest regular weekly turnout for any student group on campus, according to Wertz) come together to discuss the "big political issues of our time," Wertz said.

At the start of each meeting, held at the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies, several students prepare remarks affirming or negating a given resolution, dealing with issues such as mandatory national service or universal health care. There are no real rules except to respect each other, which means no cutting people off. When meetings do get heated, either Kleiner or Wertz steps away from the debate to become a moderator.

"My favorite part about the political union is the opportunity to discuss pressing issues," said Kleiner, a Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences senior. "While there are classes that deal with all of these topics, there is something very special about looking around and realizing there is no professor marking down grades — we are all there just to learn more about the world."

The fall calendar included discussions on the Electoral College, the 9/11 Commission and U.S. relations with Georgia. Speakers included retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former presidential nominee, and Rick Perlstein, senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future.

— Alice Truong (J10)

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Kleiner and Wertz
Samuel Kleiner, left, and Jacob WertzPhoto by Lauren Price