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Forest Hills HS students grill Weiner on election

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills) was grilled last Thursday on everything from his 2009 mayoral run to the Democratic sweep of the White House and Congress. Those demanding answers from him, however, were not the media but Forest Hills High School students.

Weiner visited the high school to speak with seniors in an Advanced Placement Government class. The congressman, who handily won the 9th Congressional District with more than 92 percent of the vote last week, addressed the students in an attempt to include them in a process he said too often leaves them out.

“Very often what we see is people referring to the apathy of young people, but all people have to do is to engage them,” Weiner said.

The government students, who are now studying the presidential cabinet, peppered Weiner with questions on everything from how to run an effective campaign to his thoughts on the City Council’s recent vote to extend term limits.

“There’s no doubt when citizens make laws, only citizens should be able to change them,” he told the group of about 35 students, each of whom had a copy of the Constitution while listening to the congressman. “Citizens should have the right to have their votes respected.”

When asked why his bid for mayor in 2009 will be different than his run for the position in 2005, Weiner said, “I’ll win in 2009,” drawing chuckles from the 17− and 18−year−olds.

After praising president−elect U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D−Ill.) — “never have I seen so many people go from a sense of despair to a sense of hope practically overnight,” Weiner said — the congressman cautioned that Democrats should be careful about how they wield their newfound power.

“The House, the Senate and the president was all one party with the Republicans, too,” Weiner said. “We saw Republicans have this, and they drove the country into the ground.”

The students, who recently participated in a school−wide mock election that resulted in Obama’s receiving 79 percent of the vote, said they were excited about Weiner’s appearance.

“I am aiming to be a government teacher, so I was happy we got to speak with him,” said Nasly Montealegre,a senior who favored Weiner’s opposition to the recent term limits vote. The Council voted to give elected city officials a third term and defeated a bill that would have put the issue to a public referendum.

“I really did not like the fact that we couldn’t vote on it,” she said.

Senior Bradley Millner said he was pleased to see that Weiner “feels pride in his party and has confidence in his country.”

“He did give more fluffy, more philosophical answers than answers based on facts, though,” Millner added. “But politicians do that.”

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