Amanda Epstein '15 and Alexandra Willingham '15 Win at Debating for Democracy Conference

by Camila Ryder '13
Amanda Epstein '15 and Alexandra Willingham '15
Amanda Epstein '15 and Alexandra Willingham '15 present their winning letter at the 2013 Debating for Democracy conference.

Amanda Epstein '15 and Alexandra Willingham '15 recently won the legislative hearing at this year's Debating for Democracy (D4D) conference for their project, a letter to State Senator Edwin B. Erickson (R-PA) concerning the parental notification section of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. Competing alongside students from four other colleges, Epstein and Willingham argued for their public policy issue in front of a legislative committee comprised of Thomas J. Downey, a former Democratic U.S. congressman from New York, Constance Berry Newman, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, the former mayor of Baltimore, Kurt L. Schmoke, and former U.S. Senator Harris L. Wofford (D-PA). After rigorous evaluation by the judges, Epstein and Willingham received the $3,000 award for their thorough argument for a reversal of the Act's parental notification section.

The annual D4D Conference is an initiative of Project Pericles, a national organization founded by philanthropist Eugene Lang '38 which works with colleges and universities to include education for social responsibility and participatory citizenship as an essential part of their programs. The goal of the conference is to encourage college students to conceptualize practical solutions that address significant public policy issues.

Eugene Lang '38
Eugene Lang '38, founder of Project Pericles, addresses this year's D4D conference.

D4D brings together student representatives from all Periclean campuses to participate in a series of educational activities with leading figures in civic engagement, education, environment, politics and social entrepreneurship. Held in New York City on March 21 and 22, Epstein, Willingham and two other Swarthmore delegates, Daniel Eilser '15 and Amir Parikh '15, participated in a variety of workshops, keynote addresses, and panel discussions. Both Epstein and Willingham also presented their letter written to an elected official at the conference's legislative hearing.

Epstein, a prospective political science major and double minor in education and Latin American studies from Bay Harbor Islands, Fla., is the news editor at The Phoenix, the weekly student newspaper. She is also a tutor with Dare2Soar, an after school program at Chester (Pa.) High School. Willingham, a Piedmont, Calif. native and music director for the women's a capella group Grapevine, channeled her experience as an extern with the ACLU of Illinois Center for Reproductive Rights into her and Epstein's D4D letter. Willingham has also interned at the San Francisco Office of the Public Defender and the YMCA of San Francisco. With their award, both students hope to use the funds to advance their efforts to remove parental notification from Pennsylvania law.