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Hail to the Chief!

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“Arizona’s new immigration law authorizes enforcement officials to require ‘suspicious’ individuals to show proof of citizenship upon request. Address America on why you support this law.” The Atlanta Voice was on hand at both Spelman and Morehouse Colleges as their political science students engaged this question in Gail Thornton’s ‘If I Were President’ game. A new addition to the political science curriculum at both colleges, the game is an instant success as students dealt feverishly with some of today’s most controversial and sensitive issues. The catch, they answered the question as if they were president.

“I was honored and proud because I was watching our future leaders start to grasp how they would solve some of the

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most pressing problems of our country,” expressed creator Gail Thornton, who was on hand at both schools to fascillitate the first game among the students. “They wanted a voice,” she continues. “This game gives them an opportunity to be heard.”

And heard they were. While the men at Morehouse were animated and vocal in their positions whether as President, Secretary of State, or a member of the press, they articulated their point of view considering serious and real life domestic and foreign affairs situations. The ladies at Spelman were equally engaged though more subdued in their delivery. The hope is for a tournament involving both schools in the near future.

“It’s an excellent teaching tool,” says Dr. Marilyn Davis, Associate Professor of Political Science at Spelman College. “The students have an opportunity to apply the principles and concepts they learn in class to real life situations.”

Currently, If I Were President is set up to run just like the American federal government with interactions between the judicial, legislative and executive branches. It can be played by an unlimited number of players who make up the two parties, the Hippos and the Giraffes, members of the press, foreign heads of state, and the voting public.

“The academic content is the strongest attribute of the game,” says Dr. Gregory Hall, Associate Professor and Chairman of the Political Science Department. “And the potential for learning, even beyond, is tremendous.”

The game includes a foreign affairs reference pack loaded with world facts

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on several countries, members of the nuclear club and information on alternative energy solutions. Many of the tailored questions deal with real life political situations from the last 20 years and from the two major parties in the United States.

“We deliberately put a spin on the questions so that an individual may be talking themselves out of an unpopular opinion to keep the game interesting, but to also encourage people to consider another person’s point of view,” explains Thornton. “It forces people to listen to both sides of an argument , find the relevant concern in each, then articulate it in such a way as to appeal to the masses.”

And, every three months, a new set of questions will be available to owners and subscribers of the game that helps to keep participants informed and engaged in the day to day political arena.

The game was also showcased at the recent annual conference for the Georgia Council for Social Studies and was a buzz at the event among educators.

Dr. Davis is hopeful that the game will make a great headway among students and educators alike. “I hope that students will want to use the game in class. In addition to the application process they have to stand on the spot and convince their classmates on their positions on the issues.” And, just like real politicians, Dr. Davis believes having to stand by your opinions and actions builds courage and resilience.

And Thornton does not intend to stop at Morehouse and Spelman. Both colleges are now offering internships where students not only help develop current refresher questions, but they also have the opportunity to help fascilitate the game among junior high and high school students.

“I am very excited about (the internship),” says Dr. Davis. “It gives them on the job training where they are able to develop their communication and critical thinking skills.” And, as for a competition between her Spelman girls and the Morehouse men, she smiles that her girls “would absolutely win.”

The game comes equipped with a game board, an instruction guide, a foreign affairs reference pack, press passes, party affiliation buttons, a presidential log, voting cards, domestic, foreign affairs and press questions, and game pieces.

“People are learning that it is not easy running our country. And this game helps keep us honest.” Thornton adds. She challenges with a game question “history has shown that our country has always gone to the aid of citizens that are being slaughtered by their leadership. Are you going to intervene in protecting Libya’s citizens?” What would you do, if you were President? For more information, visit them online at www.ifiwerepresidentgame.com.

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