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Himes and Blumenthal Discuss Syria at Public Meeting

Rep. Jim Himes addresses a speaker from the audience at Sunday’s public meeting on Syria.

People packed into the auditorium at the Darien library on Sunday, Sept. 8, filling chairs, aisles, and even crowding behind the library in order to listen and speak at a public meeting on Syria.

Rep. Jim Himes and Sen. Dick Blumenthal were present at the meeting, answering questions and hearing their constituents’ viewpoints in a public forum. “The point of this day is for you to speak,” Himes said. “What we want to do more than anything is listen.”

At the beginning of the meeting, Himes said that he remained skeptical on involvement due to the lack of international support, risk of retribution, and uncertainty of future involvement in Syria. Blumethal’s position was undecided. “I am still listening and asking questions,” he said.

However, many attendees had a clear stance on the issue. Mary Abbamonte, a Stamford resident, came to the meeting sporting pink clothing to represent Code Pink, a grassroots peace movement.

Other audience members vocalized their opposition to involvement in Syria. Some speakers voiced concerns about economic motives, including the military industrial complex. Others rejected the role of America as the world’s policemen. “There are so many civil wars around the world. We can’t get into every one of them,” said Vicky Mackenzie of Stamford.

Anna McGovern, a Monroe resident who lived in Syria as a child, provided a unique perspective. “The people of Syria are pawns of a proxy war between East and West,” she said. McGovern asked Himes and Blumenthal to cast a “no” vote if there was any doubt about evidence supporting invasion.

The pro-invasion side was represented too in the meeting. Westport resident Mike Gilbertie supported an invasion of Syria and the trying of Syrian President Assad as a war criminal. Anne Lundberg of Ridgefield also supported intervention. “A more political solution is not available until the balance of power is changed,” she said. Lundberg was in favor of Kerry’s proposal to “deter and degrade” Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons.

Besides sharing their opinions, speakers also posed questions to Himes and Blumenthal, asking the representatives’ opinions on Syrian rebel groups, past atrocities committed in Syria, and Assad’s motives. Himes and Blumenthal did not have concrete answers for many questions, due to the complex nature of the situation and lack of firsthand information.

Other audience members probed as to how much the opinion of constituents would sway the representatives’ votes. Himes said that he prioritized the voices of the people. “I would need an overwhelming case to override the people I represent,” he said. Blumenthal echoed his statement. “I am first and foremost in Washington to advocate for the people of Conn.,” he added.

In the second half of the meeting, an audience member called for an informal poll to show the balance of opinions in the room. The majority of the room raised their hands in opposition of intervention in Syria, although some supported it, and others were undecided. The stances in the room were made clear in the animated crowd’s cheering, clapping, and grumbling in response to certain speakers.

Audience members represented not only varied opinions, but a varied demographic. Although the majority of the crowd was older adults, a few children and young adults were present. One speaker, 25, had already actively engaged with Himes via Twitter, a way that the Senator connects with many constituents.

The event closed with lines of people still waiting for the microphone. Himes directed people to give their name, number, and email to his staff members as another way to have their voices heard.

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Eliza Llewellyn, Web Managing Editor
Eliza Llewellyn ’14 is driven and well-rounded. Now that it’s her third year on Inklings, she’s ready to take the lead. As web managing editor, Eliza is excited to advance the Inklings website with innovations in media and graphics. It’s not going to be easy, and fortunately her experience as co-captain of the Staples JV tennis team has taught her the valuable leadership skills necessary for the job. Not only this, but her position on the yearbook committee and her commitment to playing piano constantly puts her time management skills to the test. While her job on Inklings may also be extremely time-consuming, she puts it above all else. “If I’m doing homework at 10:30 p.m. and a new e-mail pops up with an article, I stop what I’m doing to read it,” said Eliza. “It’s one of my first priorities.” When Eliza isn’t editing articles, she’s writing them. Last year she wrote a news story, "Legacies: Investigating a College Application Controversy," which she considers one of her best works. “It felt good to talk to guidance counselors and college admissions officers because I was finding information that people would not get otherwise,” said Eliza. This year she hopes to pursue writing in-depth and research-based articles, as well as find a good balance among all her extracurriculars. With her dedication and drive, there’s no doubt Eliza will go above and beyond.
Justine Seligson, Photo Coordinator
Being a self-described political junkie and a teen travel writer, Justine Seligson '15 is not only, without a doubt,  a well rounded student and basically a mother's dream, but also a very unique addition to the staff. Seligson is extremely modest about her accomplishments, but it is very clear that her extensive journalistic experience outside of Inklings has largely influenced her presence on the paper. "I have a column on teen travel on my parent's website, which is called Farewell Travels," Seligson said. "It's a very different type of writing [than Inklings] but it's definitely helped me to grow as a journalist overall." Seligson goes on to describe the plethora of exquisite articles she has written for her column over the years. Seligson further explained how her experiences in traveling have shaped her journalistic presence in a large way. She explains why she is nonchalant about the amazing experiences she has had traveling the globe, explaining that it has always been a way of life for her and her family. "My family travels all the time," she said. "It's just part of our business." However, Seligson says that "...[she] would a much different writer if [she] hadn't traveled so much." She casually mentions how much of an impact a pre-college Kenyan writing program had on her, as what an honor it was to be featured in the National Geographic Student Edition. "It made me realize that even though journalism may supposedly be a dying business, there may be some hope for me to pursue my dream career," she said. With her in-depth knowledge of travel and politics, Seligson is sure to be an interesting voice on the paper this year. She hopes to improve her writing and photography even more this year, as well as to help other staff members to increase the quality of their own photographs.

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