Speak Outs
Speak Out
Government meetings: Getting your voice heard, without yelling

Sometimes to make a point, you’ve got to be loud – ask anybody who’s rallied behind a political candidate or a social cause.

But sometimes, being too loud can overshadow your point – look at Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina. He has fundamental disagreements with President Barack Obama on certain points of the health care debate, but is known less for his specific views than for being the guy who shouted “You lie!” at the president in the middle of his nationally televised speech last month.

Rep. Wilson was roundly criticized for his breach of protocol at a session of Congress, and he issued a public apology, saying “I let my emotions get the best of me.” This happens quite often when it comes to government. Think about meetings at your local city hall; if there’s a hot topic being discussed, public outbursts aren’t unusual, and sometimes you’ll even see your elected officials taking part. From Capitol Hill to your state capitol to City Council, when the government acts, people get emotional. Here we’ll talk about why that happens, and how you can get your voice heard above the din.

Municipal meetings: Your right to know

Why do people get emotional about the government? A major reason, simply put, is because the government is spending YOUR money. Its operations are paid for by tax dollars, and if the government is spending that money on something you are passionately opposed to, you might get upset.

Almost everything you can think of gets taxed: your paycheck, your parents’ mortgage, even your cell phone bill. The government collects this money – YOUR money – and uses it to work for you. Because the government does this, you have a right to participate in its meetings, to pay attention and scrutinize how officials spend the money you turn over to them.

Generally, your local government officials meet regularly, sometimes weekly, sometimes two or three times a month. Normally these meetings are advertised beforehand in the local newspaper.

In the meetings, they discuss the work they plan on doing that month, looking at each proposed job one at a time. And then, one by one, they vote on the proposals. We won’t sugarcoat it: sometimes these meetings are extremely dull. But they’re important for you to be aware of, and to participate in, because they affect you directly, and because it’s your right to be involved.

Governments have a duty to publish and promote openness - they cannot operate in secret. They have to debate issues and vote in public, in the open. This was legislated by the federal government in amendments to the Freedom of Information Act in 1976, often called the Sunshine Act. This spawned specific laws for each state, known as Sunshine Laws. Basically, these laws created greater openness in government operations and spelled out the rights of you, the public, to participate and have a say.

How to use your voice

Now, say you have an issue that you’re passionate about, that you want to raise with your local government. Let’s talk about how you can do that by participating in these meetings.

When you arrive at the meeting, look for copies of the agenda close to the entrance. Take a copy – it’ll say at what point your issue will be discussed – and take your seat.

By the Sunshine Laws, each meeting is required to have a public comment period. It may be at the beginning, middle or end. If you wind up waiting till the end, try not to snore too loudly when sewer expansion is being discussed – unless, of course, your issue involves sewers.

Each state and local government has its own rules regarding how meetings are run and how you can participate. Look here to find your state’s laws; check your city or town’s website first when you go to find out about local laws.

When it’s your time to talk, be calm. Take the microphone and speak forcefully, but respectfully. Identify your issue early in your remarks, and refer back to it at the end. Suggest a solution. It helps if you practice what you want to say before the meeting, so your comment is short, powerful and effective. It’s important to keep your comments brief, even if there are no time limits for public comment. But above all, be RESPECTFUL. While less is certainly more when voicing your opinion, ideally you’ll want to offer something more substantial and more civil than “You lie!”

What do you think?

Have you ever participated in a government meeting? What was the experience like? What sorts of issues would you like to talk to your government leaders about? What would you say to them to get the best response? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
11/11/2009

Christian I.
Nimitz hs, Irving, TX
I think that you can yell at government meeting, but you have to make sure that you are not just yelling out unimportant comments have your get weak and fade almost into a whisper. The way you address a topic shows how you feel about it, but if you don't give reasons why or how you are against or for the topic then you just seem like a crazy person yelling for no reason. The city counsel meetings that I have been to have had at least one person go up and start yelling to get his point across, he used correct information, he didn't let his anger get the better of him, and he kept his voice at the same tone. To me he sounded like he had practice what he was going to say, and that is a good thing if you are going to get up in front of city officials and towns people because you don't want to go in and start stuttering. But there are times when you have to keep quiet and not let your judgment get the better of you. If you are at a meeting just sitting there listening to these debates you don't want to out of no reason get up and start screaming your opinions at the city officials or towns people. No, because if you do then they'll just think that you are immature or that you are a crazy person.

11/10/2009

Marissa
Nimitz H S, Irving, TX
I haven't been to many government meetings but I do know that there are some people who get up to speak and they start yelling to try and get their point across and they end up making fools of themselves not only in front of the government officials who are there but also in front of the people of their city or area they live in. If you yell, no one will take you seriously. They'll think of you as a kid having a tantrum, wait till you're done with your little rant, and probably completely ignore anything you had said and go on with their meeting. The best approach when speaking at a meeting about an issue that you're passionate about is to first think about what you're going to say and write it down if you have to, keep it short and to the point, and most importantly keep your emotions under control.

11/9/2009

Jose M
Nimitz High School, Irving, TX
I believe that you don't have to be loud to get your voice heard and to get your point to other people, you need to have the right stragety to convince the people. To get your point sometimes you may have to be a little loud but don't go to far because you'll scare the people instead.

11/9/2009

Priscilla
Nimitz High School, Irving
It is foolish to believe that yelling will alloe others to understand and agree with your own view point. Emotions need to be put aside in regards to politics, and the only way a citizen can be heard properly is if they use a proper tone of voice and think with a clear head instead of ranting and raving and completely ignoring any opposition.

11/7/2009

Olivia
Nimitz, Irving, TX
While I have not participated in any governmental meetings, I have witnessed many citizens participate. I have noticed that when people get up to talk that their emotions usually get the best of them and instead of presenting a valid case they spend more time pointing fingers. To get the best response I would make a calm, well readied speech to get my point across the best.

11/7/2009

Martha
Nimitz High School, Irving, TX
I think that being able to express your opinions and feelings is a right everybody has, yet not everybody knows how to use it in a courteous manner. I personally have attended city council meetings and school board meetings but I have not expressed my opinions publicly. Unlike what happened in a session of Congress with Rep. Wilson, the meetings I have attended to have been conducted respectfully. I have not witnessed any people get out of hand when speaking in front of others; on the contrary, they conduct themselves in a mature and adequate way. The meetings I have attended involve important issues that affect the community in different ways, that’s why it is important that people be well-informed and attend these public meetings so they can be able to know what’s going on in their community. If going to these meetings and expressing their opinions, I would suggest the people to speak in a courteous way with confidence towards what they have to say, and to consider the fact that whatever they say will be heard by those present at the meeting. If I were to talk in front of my government leaders, I would talk about improving the security in neighborhoods and making sure everybody receives an adequate protection. I would conduct myself in a calm and informative manner, making sure that before I express my opinion I am well-informed in order to have confidence in what I have to say.

11/7/2009

Rachel
Nimitz HS, Irving, TX
I have gone to a few City Council meetings. Most of the time, the citizens who speak respectfully and calmly about their issue stating what they agree or disagree with and why. I have witnessed a couple of citizen who were a bit firmer and louder about their issue. Most of the time, this occurs with someone disagrees with someone. They seemed a little crazy and exaggerating, but it got them heard so it may not be a bad strategy in the right situation and atmosphere. If I was to talk about something with environmental issues, I would probably be more calm and just stating facts, but if I was to discuss something about the security guards at my school, I would be a lot more passionate and emotional.

11/4/2009

Munira D
Nimitz HS, Irving TX
I think that by yelling, it makes it hard to get your initial point across. It's basic instinct. If you are screaming at someone,their natural instinct of fight or flight is activated. Either you'll going to end up in a screaming match, or the person will try get as far away from you as possible, making it impossible to inform that person of your views.

11/3/2009

Jonathan
Nimitz, Irving, Tx
I have witnessed City Council meetings and School Board meetings before but I haven't seen someone speak out of turn. When it is a citizen's turn to speak, the speaker is not rude or disrespectful. On the contrary, they've praised city council for a job well done.

11/3/2009

Josh R.
Nimitz High, Irving, TX
I believe that people should be able to speak their mind out in meetings because it gets their point across. But yet, do so in a such manner that you don't make a fool out of yourself, because the councils might think your crazy. I also believe that you should have some materials to back your words for example: documents or a power point to make it more interesting.

11/2/2009

Marlen
Nimitz High School, Irving, TX
I think that being able to speak at our local government meetings is an advantage that we should use in a respectful way. If we are given the chance to let our voice be heard before the council and citizens, we need to make sure that we are respectful and that we are there with the purpose of getting our point across. Personally, even though I've attended a couple of city council meetings, I've never spoken in any of them because I haven't been well-informed of what's going on in the agenda. I think it is really important that if you choose to go up to the podium and speak publicly, you must be informed of the issues and the points of both sides. That will avoid making you seem ignorant and foolish. Nonetheless, I think that a lot of citizens have used that right responsibly and it has made a big impact on the way the council makes decisions. If an issue affected my life in a big way and I had the chance to speak up about it, I'm sure I would consider exercising that right.

11/2/2009

Nikki M.
Nimitz High School, Irving, Texas
Being able to control yourself and still get your point across without exploding is a good thing to learn. Often some people let things get to them too easily and they end up doing or saying things that they don't mean or that are insulting. I have been in a government meeting and it was really, really quiet and everybody was respectful. I haven't seen anybody go off on anybody yet and hopefully not soon. I believe that even though some citizens may yell out and be rude it pretty much helps the government get a feel of what citizens really think. Without citizens yelling out like that the government may think that everybody is okay with the decisions that the government is making. Which in some cases is not true.

11/2/2009

Josevin M
Nimitz, Irving
I believe being loud can be a good thing because it shows people that your confident in what your saying and helps you get your point across. I don't think you have to be loud all the time but being loud sometimes can be to your advantage. I think just using the right words and knowledgeable about topic is the key to be heard.

11/1/2009

Amber H
Nimitz High School, Irving, TX
Good communication is an important skill for people of all ages to acquire. Being respectful yet forceful is far more effective than letting your emotions get the best of you. I have never participated in a government meeting, but I have felt passionately about my opinion, and I have formally expressed it in order to bring about change. The experience is empowering, knowing the that I not only have the power to change, but the power to master outbursts of emotion. One subject I have been feeling particularly passionate about as a high school student is not having more control over what courses I take in my academic life. If there was something I wanted to tell my government leaders, it would be how students are not given enough rights. I would give examples of instances where I and my peers have been mislead and mistreated, and I would be sure to exhibit respect and intelligence, showing them that I am responsible enough to have a strongly backed and valid opinion.

10/31/2009

Judy
Northeast Highschool, Philadelphia
It true that alot of people do get mad when it comes to stating your opinion and letting your voice be heard. Alot of people don't know how to state there opinion without yelling or gettting upset but it not completely there fault. If the goverment is spending the money we earned and make for something we opposed of course we'er going to get mad but we just need to learn hoe to control it. This article do give a handful of helpful ways to let your voice be heard and be respectful at the same time. I think more people need to practice the arguments they are going to present before going to any type of political conference or meeting so they can have a strong professional arguement except for a childish statement.

10/31/2009

Brisli H
Nimiz High School, Irving, TX
I think being loud can be a good thing to get a certain point across but if not used the right way it can give the wrong impression. In politics arguments will always accrue but at a certain point you will be able to get your voice heard. And when that time comes you don’t have to be loud you just got to be firm with your words and make sure they have a meaning.

10/30/2009

Jose R.
Nimitz High School, Irving, Texas
I think that being to loud in the right moment is alright but when your loud at the wrong moment it can ruin the whole effect of your statement. If you get loud people think your arguing from your heart and that's a bad thing because in arguements you have to think with your head to win and your heart to care about it.

10/30/2009

LeAna
Nimitz High School, Irving, Texas
I attended city council meetings before and I find them very interesting. The people go up to the podium when the council members call on them and they say their opinions one at a time. I think that's a good strategy for everyone to say what they have to and not be interrupted. In that way everyone can be treated impartially. You wouldn't hear anyone bursting out angrily at the other person because no one would listen.

10/30/2009

Terresa W. pd.7 frank
Northeast High School, Philadelphia.PA
I think being to loud can get in the way. in the same instance if you feel strongly about the issue I believe you can never be to loud. If you feel strongly about the issue you can be loud with your actions it doesn't have to be in words all the time. If a person does use words they have to make sure it is it is suitable and it doesn't offined anyone and It has to be respectful. In this case it wasn't and he had a problem on his hands. There is a time and place for everything and he chose the wrong time to say his comment.

10/29/2009

Joshua P.
Northeast High School, Philadelphia, PA
I believe a cross on federal ground is a violation of the establishment clause. The cross is a symbol specific to Christianity and no other religion. Therefore it is a clear endorsement of Christianity by the government that should not be allowed. However, changing it to private land makes it acceptable, because the establishment clause does apply to private property. As a Christian myself, I have no problem with the cross being used, but I recognize that this is unfair to other religions. Due to this, it would be best if the court ruled to change the symbol to something everyone could accept.

10/29/2009

Lilian A
Nimitz High School , Irving/Tx
I have attended city council meetings and school board meetings but never actually participated in one. My experience so far by attending these meetings have been organized, welcoming, and informative. I believe it is important to become involved in the meetings even if u just sit down to listen. What I would like to talk to the government leaders about is definitely have to be about education. Leaning more towards the cost of college education. Recently the amount of college tuitions has gone immensely up, compared to the previous years. Our president Obama has stressed the importance on how important education is. I personally feel that a lot of people don’t extend their education for the reason being of the cost of tuitions. Education is important but if we can’t afford it then we cant attend school.

10/29/2009

Jackie F
Nimitz HS, Irving/TX
Raising your voice so that your audience can understand your point isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, too much of anything is always bad. It can show that you are passionate about what you are talking about but if you were to give a whole speech using an “outside” voice, your audience may think that you are uneducated and I doubt that that quality would help your cause any.

10/28/2009

Nicolette
Nimitz HS, Irving/TX
I believe that people become emotional while speaking out against an issue, because they feel as though no one will take them seriously if they don't impress the seriousness of their words. However, this is not necessarily the case. Usually one doesn't shout out unless another does first, and that is when being loud “gets you heard”. Not necessarily in the right way, but still heard. I believe that being able to make yourself heard could be through things like participating in calm meetings. Maybe if everyone is guaranteed a chance to speak, they won't be worried their opinion won't be expressed in due time. Or maybe using visual tools like appropriate posters will attract the attention of eyes, not ears.

10/28/2009

Kareem pd5 mr frank
Northeast High School, Philadelphia,PA
I strongly believe that a person must have a strong opinion and a stern voice in order to be heard in the society that we live in. usually if a person is extremely enthusiastic about a particular subject, there voice may be amplified quite a bit, this doesnt necessarily mean that they are innappropriate. Of course there are some instances where a person can get out of hand, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a loud strong voice to execute your opinions. most citizens understand that there is a time and a place for everything,and Joe wilson was definately in the wrong mindset during president Obamas discussion about healthcare but he is absolutely human, and humans make mistakes. Besides, a small voice will never be heard by anyone.

10/27/2009

Issa A. Mr. Frank, Pd. 2
Northeast High, Philadelphia Pa
I absolutely believe in lifting your voice when you need to be heard. Lets face it, in todays world unless you bring attention to your self, nobody will listen. I don't mean go crazy and immature and make an outburst. If you just sit there silently nobody will pay you much attention. When you do speak and if you speak in a low-tone soft voice nobody will take you serious. I don't agree with what Joe Wilson did, but he made sure his view was heard. If he said it to Obama privitely he would not have made it clear how he really felt and nobody would have paid him any mind. I believe when you have something to say,then say it!I believe you should be loud enough so they can hear you and talk with alot of self confidence. If you're not loud enough and confident nobody will take you serious.

10/26/2009

Amber
Northeast High School, Phila/PA
I strongly agree that you should be loud and agressive when presenting any point. It shows that you are passionate about what you believe in and I think that if you are quiet that no one will want or be able to hear you.

10/26/2009

Tamara
Northeast High School, Philadelphia
When it comes to certain topics at hand, I can become very loud and emotional. Most people do. I don't see this as a bad thing. People today can tend to keep to themselves too much, afraid to speek up. Then others don't ever shut up. When it comes to important meeting or politics you should be able to speak up and put in your two cents but don't over do it, and make sure others have their say too. Don't cut them off and be the center of the show. And if you do, everyone does deserve an apology if you step out of hand. It's not just in government either just in your everyday as well.

10/26/2009

Julianne
Northeast High School, Phila, PA
I believe that if you strongly want to make a point that it is a right that you should have to be able to express it in a loud and emotional matter. If you don't believe in what you are fighting for, then no one will have your back about it either.

10/26/2009

Mikel R. PD.5
Northeast highschool, philadelphia PA
I agree that should be agressive for something you care about.It shows that you care about what your taking part in.Ifyou show that you are passionate others will follow your lead.Sometimes yelling is the only way to be heaerd.I think when you speak out like that it should be i the most respectfull way possible. If not done in that maner it should not be done.What the guy did calling out to obamam was wrong. He could of handeled that situation much better.But long as its respectfull i agree you should speak your mind.

10/26/2009

Melvin
Nimitz HS, Irving,Tx
I believe that participating in government's meetings, are a great way to be inform and involved at politics. It gives you a great amount of information about what issues your city, state, or country might have. For example, this year I been three times to the Irving city council. I'm not going to lie, some of them have been boring but others have been really interesting with full of excitement. So far, I haven't had the chance to talk to my governmental leaders. But if I get the opportunity to do so, I will like to question their work in the community and what are they doing to improve the City Of Irving. I don't think that whenever you are louder it's going to give you a better chance to be heard. If I'm going to participate in one of the city councils, instead of being loud and disrespectful to my government leaders, I will try to calm down and treat them with respect. Because my attitude is going to reflect my character, I'm going to control my emotions, no matter how much I want to explode. I also think that if my government leaders observe that my comments are short, effective, and brief, my voice is going to have a better chances of being heard.

10/26/2009

Bryan, mr.frank 2nd period
north east high school, Philadelphia, P.A.
I don't really agree that you have to be loud to make your point. By just simply stating your points and views in a calm manner then that would be a good thing to do. But shouting "you lie" is a bit childish for an adult to do in congress, and you cant really compare local people and the people in congress. local people are often not heard and don't really get to say what they want to say, that is why they lash out on heated topics, congressman lashing out just means they are being unprofessional. But like i said doing things a clam professional manner makes it easier for you to get your point across instead of yelling which just makes things worse

10/25/2009

Cory
Nimitz High, Irving, TX
In my opinion, government meetings are interesting, but boring. In the past few months I have been to two city council meetings. Each one was interesting on the issues they had. If I were to voice my opinion, it would be on banning books. If the state decided to ban books because of what is in them, I wouldn't be too happy. I would go to the city council and say, “Banning books is outright ignorant. First and foremost, some of the books students read are educational. The textbooks are there for us to learn from and to get help from. For example, if I need help on a Calculus problem, then I would first read my notes. If I can't find it in my notes, I would go to the book. The book has information I need to get my homework done. Also with banning textbooks, the state is contradicting itself. The textbooks are state issued books, and if the state is going to ban books, they are taking away what they issued for the students. Second, if the state is going to ban books, find the books that do have profanity, sex, drugs, and etc. and ban those, not the others.”

10/25/2009

Ashlyne
Nimitz, Irving TX
Our government was set up so that people could speak their minds and, if they wished, speak it loudly. If someone wishes to see this in acting there is no better place than your local council meetings. When subjects that affect large amounts of people, or even just the right people, the subject becomes a hot debate. It isn't because people are inconsiderate or rude and obnoxious. It simply means that they truly care about the topic. Who are you more likely to listen to: The person with the monotone voice who doesn't use anything but political jargon? Or the person with an impassioned voice talking about a subject that is firing up the crowd? Even if someone doesn't agree with what the person is saying there will be some amount of moving forward because the opposition is more likely to make their argument well known. Now, sometimes bursting out in the middle of a meeting is not good protocol. It is, at times, inappropriate and rude. At times when it is better to be quiet it is, well, better to remain quiet. It's all about timing. I think that it is better to be loud than quiet but I also understand the importance of biding ones time.

10/25/2009

Valentina
Nimitz H S, Irving/Texas
I have been in city council meetings, but I haven’t participated in none yet. There are some city meetings that get very emotional. It is very interesting to listen to these heated City Councils. I will participate in a government meeting, when I now more amount the issues that I want to talk about. I would like to talk about health reform, immigration reform, and other issues that I an interested in. What I have learned in going to the city council, is that the person that participates needs to be calm, and be prepared, on what they have to say. They need to make their speech short, and get their point across. I have notice that the members of the city council like participates to be short and to the point. There have been many that take forever to say their point, and this is boring for everyone. When I do participate on an issue a will speak out what I believe, and maybe get emotional, but I will still be respectful, and fast on my point.

10/25/2009

Savanna
Nimitz, Irving, TX
I feel people tend to let their emotions get the best of them. This can result in shouting in order to get their point across. People will not remember what you were talking about, they will remember how you acted. In order for you to get people to listen, you have to be educated on the issue, the more you know the better. You can demand and attention simply by being confident. People will take notice in your demeanor.

10/25/2009

Erick
Nimitz, Irving, TX
Although I have never participated in a government meeting, I have presented myself before several school board meetings. These meetings are run on a tight schedule, moving along the agenda as quickly as possible in order to cover the all the material in the least amount of time. As an observer, I noticed that these meetings, although boring at times, present important information and possible solutions which are to be voted on. Thus, these decisions are very relevant to all who attend. If I were to participate in a government meeting, I would like to mention my interests in our protection against criminals. I, unlike many, would not let my emotions get the best of me. On the other hand, I would use persuasive strategies such as ethos, logos, and pathos in order to present a strong argument to my leaders. Through ethics, logic, data, and some emotional appeal, I believe I could get the best response out of them.

10/23/2009

Sandra C.
Nimitz High School, Irving/ Texas
I am a very emotion oriented person. Any action I take, anything I say all ways comes from what I am feeling. Some thought may go into it, but everything all ways goes down to my emotions. Therefor, in my opinion, I wouldn't mind someone getting loud. They are simply expressing themselves, and how they feel about a certain subject. So long as they do not become violent or hurt anyone I think it is okay. The only way you get heard, get your point across, and show people that you care, is by revealing it. By showing it in your word choice, your tone, your body language. Everything must be shown so that the audience can truly understand what you are talking about. If it means crying or yelling in fury they will know how affected and moved you are by what you are talking about. This all comes with a limit, of coarse. You can't go into hysterics, you cannot curse or interrupt anyone. You must allways be respectful of others when you are stating your opinion. But be loud! Show that you care because if you don't get exited about it then how do you expect other people to do the same?

10/21/2009

Sean
Kelly, Philadelphia PA
You could be loud but you don't have to over do it. If you over do it people may not take you seriously or think that you are imatuer.A way that you could get your point across is maybe to talk to a representative or write a letter.

10/21/2009

Sergey
Nimitz, Irving
The louder the better! (I always say) I have been to a couple city council meeting and it seems like people who are really serious about their topic and position on an issue are always speaking in a loud and powerful way. Their audible voices project their ideals and present their views in a booming and influential way. I was very moved by the way they could present and actually felt a little bit of the emotion. I firmly believe in presenting an issue in a loud and aggressive way, it benefits the presenter by allowing the crowd to understand the deep, personal, and emotional stance of the presenter. These feelings cannot always be presented in a calm, monotone way, they must be proclaimed as aloud as the personal connection behind the topic.

10/21/2009

Emanuel G.
Northeast Highschool, Philadelphia Pa
There's different ways that you can get your point across to people. Sometimes people let there emotions get to them, then when they try to get there point across they do it the wrong way. In my opinion all you really have to do is write a letter explaining what you want. I still feel that the people are sometimes hard on the government. They always want the government to do something different everyday and then when the government acts they get emotional. They have to understand that the government has either a whole state or country to take govern. The government can't just do what one person wants. I'm not saying that the government is 100% right. They have their problems too. I feel the people and the government are at fault sometimes. It depends the situation in which the government should be loud or soft on his act.

10/20/2009

Cristi W.
Nimitz HS, Irving, Texas
Personally, I have never participated in a government meeting. The reason being because I do not believe I am well informed enough (yet) to speak for myself. I am learning though, and one day I will be able to speak up for what I believe in in an educated and fashionable manner. I would like to talk to my leaders about environmental issues, health care reform, and why it takes so long to get certain things done. I would start with a personal issue, such as my sister not being able to move into section 8 housing. She is on disability, and they tell her that they are not accepting applications at the moment. I feel that they just do not want to deal with her, and I think if I had enough back up they would listen for once. I understand that some things are beyond the control of my leaders, but I know they have more of an influence on those issues than me. I am just one person, they are approximately 500,000 people.

10/20/2009

Vanessa H.
Nimitz High School, Irving/TX
I have recently been going to the city council meetings that are held in the city of Irving, Texas. The first meeting I had ever attended was a controversial meeting that dealt with unfair representation in the city council. There was so many people who were upset about this issue, that they just went to the microphone and expressed their thoughts in a very unprofessional way. I think people need to definitely be respectful when they are speaking in any sort of government meeting. If people want others to listen to what they say, they need to give respect in order to get respect. People need to speak in a proper manner, and not go into emotional outburst that include yelling, foul language, and such. When people start yelling it affects them negatively, because instead of fixing the problem, they are just adding more drama into the problem. For example if someone is yelling at you, you are not going to stay quiet and act like everything is alright. In the contrary you are going to be furious to know that someone is against your beliefs and you will also find yourself yelling back at them, thus making chaos in the meeting. If you want council members or any kind of government members to pay attention to what you are saying, you have to act calm, speak firmly, and make sure that you have thought thoroughly of what it is you are going to say. Seriously, I have seen from my own observations how people are so unprepared and they just go to the microphone and start rambling about something that does not even make sense. Sometimes they don't even have their facts straight, which makes them look foolish. So they should be aware of what they will say before stepping up to speak in these meetings, if they really want their opinion to be effectively heard.

10/20/2009

Sasha K.
Northeast, Philadelphia
I belive that there are many ways of voicing your opinion without getting out of hand and making a scene. You could quite easily wait untill the person speaking finishes voicing their opinion or saying whatever it is they have to say, when they are finished then at a respectable time you can agree or disagree with whatever they said. I beleive that the manner in which Joe Wilson reacted was indeed disrespectful and could have been handeled in a much more respective manner.

10/20/2009

Jim L.
Northeast High School-Mr.frank, Philadelphia, PA
I honestly believe that to be heard you have to speak your mind. I didn't see nothing wrong with Rep. Joe Wilson shouting out what he believes in. If he would've kept his mouth shut, he would never have gotten his thought heard. He wanted to make a huge statement of being frustrated with Obama's Health plans. If you don't act upon something you wish to fight for, you may never win. I definitely did not think rep. Joe Wilson did nothing wrong

10/20/2009

Christopher
Northeast High School, Philadelphia/ PA
Well sometimes in arguments your emotions can get the best of you which isn't always the best way to get your point across. Screaming doesn't get your point across your just louder than the next person. When you scream you get mad which in terms leads to your IQ dropping slightly at that moment. When the rep.Wilson started to scream at the press conference he was letting his personal views get the better of him and lost track of what is best for the people he is getting paid to represent. If you are in a debate and calmly wait your turn to speak odds are the people that your speaking too are more likely to listen to you than if your screaming at them. So in my personal opinion screaming and arguing solves nothing. If you really want to have a good discussion talk things out explain your points instead of screaming them at the person or people your talking too.

10/20/2009

Jobin
Nimitz HS, Irving/TX
On many ocassions I have seen citizens participate in government meetings. On more than one ocassion, people tend to be more emotional rather than prepared and professional. It is true everyone's voice should be heard, however most peoples voices tend to be accusing towards the government and have a negative tone. As a high school student, I would approach my city council about different the uses of technology, the overcrowding of schools, and the quality of instruction within the educational system. I would briefly display my concerns rather than accusing my city of wronging me. This is how I feel I would be able to get the best possible response without accusing the authorities.

10/20/2009

Merrin A.
Northeast High School, Philadelphia, PA
In my opinion, I believe that there is a way to get your voice heard but also in the right way. Many people tend to get loud when they are making their point because they left their emotions get to them. A perfect example is Joe Wilson, who made an outburst during President Obama’s speech, and which he later on did apologize for. Wilson did not like what was going on in Obama’s Healthcare Plan and he let his emotions get to him and yelled out. It wasn’t the best move for him to do, but it was his own opinion which he should have shown in another way. People have their opinions in which they believe in strongly so when they try to voice it out, they get angry or frustrated when someone doesn’t agree with them and then the yelling begins. I think people need to cool down, control their emotions and talk properly when they are stating their opinion without the outbursts.

10/19/2009

Kristina M.
Nimitz High School, Irving/TX
Yes, I have had the chance to sit in on a government meeting, such as our city council meetings, and school board meetings. They are serious and to the point. Everything has a purpose and it is very organized and planned out.If I were able to talk to our government about anything, it would be education. Education would be at the top of my list because as generations pass, education is the last thing some teens have in mind of what they want to do everyday. Plus, if the student does not want to be there, why make them? I hate having the people at my school, who don't want to be there, but yet they want to be a distraction to all. Also, the materials provided to make our school better and our students more learned and better educated would be a big help to those who want to be there.Plus if we had better books, or different teaching techniques and have the teachers more involved in their lectures to which we can relate to them, it would also be a better way to get on a student's level. If I were to talk to them, it would probably just be a suggestion. I would definately not yell out them in an outcry to let my voice be heard. Just as these speakouts allow us students, as well as anyone who feels the need to write on an issue, I think our words and the way we use them speak louder than an outburst or rebutled scream. If someone were to scream at me and I was of higher authority, I would personally not take them seriously and it would definately not get their point across, even if my intentions were good. There are many ways to have our voices heard, but there are also ways not to, like Rep. Joe Wilson. He did not boost himself into a better light, it only hurt him and his cause. So I and we should all learn from his mistake and think of better ways to get our point across when we disagree or have a suggestion.

10/19/2009

Mckelle
Northeast High, Phila, PA
Well, I guess Joe's decision was his own, and of his own will. It seems his emotions were stronger than the power of his will, but to do this on T.V.? Gutsy move if you ask me. But he made a public apology, and I guess he could be considered forgiven for that. But some will not forgive so easily for things like that, especially with so many looking to the new president for circumcision from this declining economy. But, I'm sure it will get better.

10/19/2009

Rebecca
Nimitz High School, Irving, Texas
Although I have never participated in a government meeting, I have attended a few local city council meetings. I was expecting them to be dull and lifeless, but to my surprise one meeting was actually lively and many citizens did participate. The citizens that did participate could be classified into two parts: citizens that have a respectful tone and are able to get their views across in a decent manner and those who let their emotions get the best of them and their opinion is weakened. With citizen participation the government (whether it be local or national) gets an idea of what the people want. But if you stand up and tell them all of the things they are doing wrong in a loud and inappropriate way, you are only hurting yourself and you your views. But on the other hand, this government is spending your hard earned money and your views and idea have a right to be heard. It is important to know that although it may be hard to get your opinions across after getting emotional, members of the government are far more likely to listen and respect your views. If I were to participate in any sort of government meeting I would speak about my feelings and opinions about my school. I would ask why some of my teachers are having to re-work lesson plans because we still do not have text books and why schools are becoming so overcrowded, and little has been done about these issues.

10/19/2009

Shayla E
Nimitz, Irving, TX
I haven't ever been to a council meeting that someone spoke out obnoxiously, but i have been to a goup meeting that someone expressed their feeling quite loudly like Joe Wilson.I do believe it is the wrong way to get your word across.I believe being calm, soft, but strong and smart with your words and emotionsis the way to get your word or feelings across.Also, i believe whether you like the person or not you should show them respect because i know if someone is rude loud and disrespectful to me when trying to get a point across i will not listen to what they have to say.

10/19/2009

Elizabeth Q
Nimitz High School, Irving, Texas
While I have not personally participated in a government meeting, I have seen many citizens get up and participate. On the more sensitive issues, people that stand up and address the city council tend to be less prepared and more emotional. The council usually doesn't take their opinions very seriously because they speak to the council in a very accusatory and disrespectful manner. If I were to speak to a government official, I would want to address the problems with education in Irving. I would very briefly express my concerns for the lack of books, overcrowding, and how the board of education prioritizes what school gets construction first. Instead of being accusatory I would simply show my concern for these problems and ask them to consider looking into these problems. I feel that they best way to get a positive response when speaking at a government meeting is to remain calm, go in front of the meeting well prepared, and don't lose sight of what your point is.

10/19/2009

Heather B.
Nimitz HS, Irving, Tx.
The recent encouragement of my government teacher, Ms. Bradley has prompted me to get more involved by attending city council and school board meetings in my area. It was an eye opener, it actually seemed really easy to get your opinions heard and taken into consideration. It was almost overwhelming to see how many decisions are made at these meetings with our input as a community or without. I think an important topic to discuss right now would be education. I feel that sometimes we have inadequate supplies like books, and teachers that don't really care about giving their students the most information possible. I would like to see these things be addressed with a reevaluation of funds and possibly a stricter guideline for employment. To get a response from government leaders I would prepare ahead of time so I was not stumbling through my speaking time, and present my opinion in a calm and respectful manner, and most importantly offer a solution. In my opinion there is nothing worse to do than to complain about something but have no suggestions on how to improve something.

10/17/2009

Alwin J
Nimitz High School, Irving , TX
Peace and Harmony are two hard goals to achieve. America is a vast nation that has people with different beliefs and opinions. So people often have to fight in order to attain their goals. And when famous people try to get their voices heard, they become more well known for their emotions rather than their ambitions. Outbursts occur during government meetings due to factors such as rugged individualism and dogmatism. Some people often believe strongly in what they stand for and never become open-minded individuals. This leads to conflicts. One way to alleviate this is by being more respectful to who oppose us and to make sure that when we get the chance to talk about something, we make our points entirely and then react towards oppositions. Reacting while in the middle of a speech or a presentation can waste our time and makes the likelihood of a compromise between ourselves nearly impossible. Hence, yelling out is not always the right idea.

10/17/2009

Joel P.
Nimitz High School, Irving
I believe that government participation is crucial for ALL citizens of the United States (regardless of age). I have been to a couple of city council meetings before, and they all have been conducted in a calm and respectful manner. If I ever get a chance to personally question or talk to a government official, I would suggest an improvement in education. As a student in high school, I would like to see educational reform for our schools. Better books, technology, teachers etc. should all be important on any government's agenda. Personally, I believe that Joe Wilson was completely out of line, and frankly, I expected better from someone of his position. Wilson is a good example of how not to express your opinion. To get the best response from an official, you would have to be calm and patient, ask respectfully, and suggest a solution that (just as the above article says) “short, powerful and effective.”

10/16/2009

Nichole C.
Northeast High School, Philadelphia, PA
I believe everyone should have their vocie heard but there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. Rep. Joe Wilson did not make his voice heard the right way. Everyone should be respectful and show self-control. When trying to get your point across it is best not to let your emotions get the best of you. It is disrespectful to yell or shout. If you do feel passionate about a topic you should get involved by going to a government meeting. The main thing to remember is to just be respectful when presenting your opinions.

10/16/2009

Sofia (PD.2)
Northeast High School, Philadelphia, PA
It is necessary for everyone’s voice to be heard. I don’t think that shouting is the right way to have your voice heard. I think what Rep. Joe Wilson did was very disrespectful to President Obama. I'm sure there was another way he could have expressed his opinion without disrespecting anybody.

10/16/2009

Stefanie R.
Northeast High School, Philadelphia, PA
I do not believe that anyone should ever feel the need to shout to get their opinion across. There are so many powerful and descriptive words you could use to voice your opinion. When someone is yelling, people become too distracted by the person's actions to even listen to their words. I also believe that opinions can be very controversial so we need to be careful with how and when we promote them. I know that when I am making a point, I usually try to wait my turn and when my turn comes around, I choose my words carefully so that everyone knows that I am saying exactly what I mean. However, I do understand that sometimes we can become overwhelmed when trying to speak in an unorganized large group. I can understand why some people do feel the urge to yell but I think that in the end, it is not as effective.

10/15/2009

Phil M
EAHS, PA
There was no reason for the outburst from Rep. Joe Wilson. Emotions got the best of him, he should be able to control himself just like everyone else. What if everybody would have yelled? There would be chaos and nothing would be accomplished. He should have a chance to express himself but not in this manner.

10/15/2009

Vikki
Elizabethtown Area High School, Elizabethtown
I believe that we all have our side of the story and that at certain times in arguments you must raise your voice. But at the end, when in a discussion or debate everyone should get a chance to state their opinion on the subject,WITHOUT shouting or raising your voice. Its not something you should get angry about everyone is appointed to their beliefs and we don't always have to believe what others do.I think if you just let people hear what you have to say and then there are questions about it you just simply state it instead of creating an uproar about it

10/15/2009

Meghan
Elizabethtown Area High School, Elizabethtown/PA
I believe everyone has a right to get their voice heard. I think that Rep. Joe Wilson shouldn't have shouted out "You lie!", but rather say it at a different time in a respectful manner. Of course there are topics that aggravate people, but to get a point across people have no reason to shout or be disrespectful. In general, everyone has a right to their own opinion/voice.

10/15/2009

Catherine
Elizabethtown Area High School, Elizabethtown, PA
Nobody should have to yell in order to get their point across. There is always a way to present your point in a non- disrespectful way. If you have a point just state it in a way that won't seem too overbearing. Everyone has a chance to voice their opinion so just do it in a polite manner.

10/15/2009

alphonsus
elizabethtown high, elizabethtown pa
Im glad that Joe wilson voiced his opinion and I agree with him. I think obama has lied and continues to contradict many of the things he said he would do. O think it was not approprite to make a scene in that way because the people representing our states should act in a professional manner.Free speech is one of the great hings in our nation and i believe it should never be limited.although everyone has the right of free speach there are concequences for what you say nontheless

10/15/2009

Meghan
Elizabethtown Area High School, Elizabethtown/PA
I believe everyone has a right to get their voice heard. I think that Rep. Joe Wilson shouldn't have shouted out "You lie!", but rather say it at a different time in a respectful manner. Of course there are topics that aggravate people, but to get a point across people have no reason to shout or be disrespectful. In general, everyone has a right to their own opinion/voice.

10/15/2009

Ben
EAHS, Pennsylvania
To speak out you have to have a valid point to add to a discussion but proper respect is in order "you lie"! is neither respectful nor a valid way to speak to a government official in any office. it is all about respect free speech should not be used to call a government official a liar even if the things they are saying are lies.

10/15/2009

Matt
Elizabethtown area school district, Elizabethtown PA
I think people should speak out but should find the time to talk by letting one person talk at a time. If you have all these people talking at once you will never get anywhere in the discussion. Also if someone talks too much and they aren't letting other people talk and get their point across they should be told to calm down. About raising their voices its not bad to talk loud showing emotion is ok. It will tell people how you feel without hearing your whole argument. Sometimes showing emotion can get people to listen if you are not being heard.

10/15/2009

Tessa
Etown, Elizabethtown, PA
I have never participated in any sort of government meeting. I do, however, plan to as I move away from my parents and become more independent. If I were ever to attend a meeting in Bainbridge, the town where I live, I would want to talk about the road conditions. For many years we have had road issues because it is such a small town. Before I enter my opinion on this topic, I think I would want to sit in one meeting without talking that way I could get the feel for everything and then maybe when I get used to it, then I would be glad to share my point.

10/15/2009

Gerad
Elizabethtown Area High School, Elizabethtown/PA
I think that if you disagree with something you should go to a meeting and bring up your issue so it can be discussed. but i can understand people getting so aggravated about things that you have an outburst.

10/15/2009

zach
Elizabethtown Area High School, Elizabethtown/PA
i think its wrong to shout out comments while someone else is trying to give a speech. Even if it does aggravate you you wouldn't want someone shouted out comments about you during your speech. If you have a comment it should be able to wait until after the person is done talking

10/15/2009

Catlin
EAHS, Elizabethtown
I believe that sometimes the only way to get your point across is to raise your voice. But I think there is probably a better way to get everyones attention so you can get your views out there. Everyone should have a right to express what they believe in.

10/15/2009

Ally
Elizabethtown Area HS, Elizabethtown, PA
I think it would make it easier to attend our town meetings if they were advertised better. A lot of people do not know where or when they are held, and very few people show up at all. I have never been, but I know someone who attends regularly. She speaks out constantly and her opinion is never taken seriously, most likely because she is disrespectful and loud. I believe students and other Elizabethtown citizens could make a difference if we began to get plugged in and involved.

10/15/2009

Tyler
EAHS, Elizabethtown, PA
I feel everyone has a right to there opinion and people should be allowed to express there opinions. In the constitution it says free speech but i think to a certain level because if you would make immature statements like racism or sexist comments then your pushing it. I do feel though we have the right to express our feelings in a respectable way!!!

10/15/2009

nate
etown, etown pa
i think we should all have our opinions made and listen to others opinions

10/15/2009

Kayla
Elizabethtown Area High School, Elizabethtown, PA
There are plenty of polite, positive ways to express yourself and get your point across. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina's sudden outburst was not one of them, and we could all learn from him that keeping a hand on our emotions is important especially when it comes to the government. Instead of the outbursts, why don't we try to make our actions heard, not our voices at the wrong time. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to represent yourself intelligently.

10/15/2009

Ben
Elizabethtown High School, Elizabethtown, PA
I believe that everyone has the right to speak up. There is, however, a fine line that should not be crossed. For example, you should not hurt anyone or anything to get your voice out there. You should find another way to voice your opinion respectfully .

10/15/2009

Jamie
Elizabethtown, PA
I agree with the fact that raising your voice in a formal meeting is very inappropriate. I do however know that in heated discussions, especially a discussion that you are very passionate about, it is very hard to stay emotionless while someone else is aggravating you. Each person should be able to give their opinion on the topic during their appointed time period. Furthermore, outbursts like this shouldn't happen if people are given the opportunity to speak in a calm collective manner.

10/15/2009

Kristi
Elizabethtown Area High School, Elizabethtown, PA
There is no need for people to scream and shout to get their point across. If everyone remains calm and collected the discussion will run smoothly. Yelling only causes more problems and will irritate those who don't agree with your opinion.

10/15/2009

Derek
EAHS, Pennsylvania
I believe that speaking your mind is an acceptable method to getting your opinion heard. I think as long as you are not being disrespectful to others around you it is perfectly fine. The way you can get your self heard is by expressing your opinion right away. Don't talk about useless information, get straight to the point. If someone is very motivated in getting their opinions heard they can have protests or form a petition against a topic. Their are many different ways in which you can be noticed without looking ignorant and barbaric.

10/15/2009

Erin
Elizabethtown HS, Elizabethtown/PA
Speaking out is very important if you want your voice to be heard. Just sitting there and listening to something you do not believe in will not get your point across. While I believe it is important to stand up for what you believe in, I also find it important to express your opinion in a respectful manner.

10/15/2009

Phil M
EAHS, PA
There was no reason for the outburst from Rep. Joe Wilson. Emotions got the best of him, he should be able to control himself just like everyone else. What if everybody would have yelled? There would be chaos and nothing would be accomplished. He should have a chance to express himself but not in this manner.

10/15/2009

Alex
Elizabethtown area HS, PA
I think that voicing your opinion extremely important in our society. Although the way Rep. Wilson stated his was disrespectful and out of line, he has the right to his own opinion and the right to make it known. I don't disagree with his actions because I don't think he was wrong in addressing the President so forcefully, I think he was out of line for interrupting the speech without being addressed.

10/14/2009

Liz, E
Northeast High School, Philadelphia/ PA
I believe that there shouldn't be any reason for anybody to raise their voice just to get their point straight or be direct. I've never believed in that, but there are some people who probably feel the need to express themselves in this unfortunate way. I think that each one of us should let each other get a chance to express ourselves, give our opinions in a respectful way. In conclusion we should treat each other as we would want to be treated if you need to make a point or give your opinion.

10/14/2009

Valarie G.
Nimitz HS, Irving, TX
Why there are outbursts is because when a certain topic comes up that aggravates you, it is a reaction to stand up for what you believe in. There are other times when you just feel so strongly about the topic, and others around disagree with you, you can’t help but blurt out your thoughts. Which is not wrong, just dangerous. How you can get your voice heard is to start the conversation on the topic and quickly get your opinion in before anyone else. Or instead of being barbarians and stand up yelling, ask for permission to speak. You could also have movements, meetings, rallies, protests, etc. that will not only be your voice, but those around that feel the same way.

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