Princeton Model Congress is the oldest model congress in America. Its inaugural conference took place in 1982 in New York City under the leadership of a group of students from the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, which is the world’s oldest college literary, political, and debate society. At our annual conference high school students under the direction of Princeton undergraduates simulate all three branches of the Federal Government of the United States of America. Our conference has evolved, expanded and relocated to our nation’s capital Washington, DC over the course of the last quarter century. Currently, Princeton Model Congress offers high school students the opportunity to simulate the experience of serving in Congress, sitting on the bench as a Supreme Court Justice, counseling our Commander in Chief as a member of the Presidential Cabinet or covering the Federal Government in print as a part of the Press Corp. Our conference draws approximately 1,200 participants from all across the political spectrum and from all over the country. And our conference takes place just down the street from Capitol Hill—literally a five-minute walk away—so that our participants experience an added dimension of realism that no other model congress in America offers. They also have the opportunity to explore the multitude of attractions that our nation’s capital has to offer. Yet although Princeton Model Congress has made many improvements and expansions in the last twenty-five years, we certainly have not lost sight of our initial goal: to foster civic engagement among American high school students.
Our Location's Unique Features
Our location in Washington, DC differentiates us from other model congresses in America and it is one of the many aspects of our conference that generates glowing feedback from both our high school participants and their teachers year after year. Princeton Model Congress takes place at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C., which gives our delegates the opportunity to visit attractions such as the United States Capitol Building, the White House, the Smithsonian Museums, and the United States Supreme Court during their half-day break from a four-day schedule packed with rigorous debate and other activities. And our conference is just a five-minute walk away from Union Station, which provides a wide variety of affordable and easily accessible dining options in its food court. Proximity to Union Station also makes transportation to the conference straightforward. Another advantage of being in the heart of Washington DC is our ability to attract keynote speakers from the highest levels of American government. While our delegates debate our nation’s future, they have a unique opportunity to hear from the men and women who are determining it. Recent Princeton Model Congress keynote speakers include political giants like Paul Wolfowitz and Ralph Nader.
The Structure of Our Conference
Princeton Model Congress is composed of four distinct congresses and four Special Programs. The Red, White, Blue, and Orange Congresses each have a Senate and a House of Representatives, with six Senate committees and seven House committees in each Congress. Our delegates are not required to take on the roles of current representatives or to represent state interests because although arguing for assigned views is a valuable rhetorical exercise, it generates debate that is less well informed and less passionate than debate among people espousing their true convictions. At Princeton Model Congress delegates research and write their own bills on topics pertinent to their committee and based on their individual interests. Bills that pass in Committee Sessions are brought before Full Sessions, where the Congressional Senate or House of Representatives convene. And bills that pass in Full Sessions are sent to the President of Princeton Model Congress to be signed or vetoed. All Committee Sessions and Full Sessions are moderated by Princeton University undergraduates according to Robert’s Rules of Order. The four Special Programs at Princeton Model Congress are President of Princeton Model Congress, Presidential Cabinet, Supreme Court and Press Corps. Candidates for the Presidency of Princeton Model Congress are selected by application and then the conference’s delegates vote to select their Commander in Chief. The President presides over the Presidential Cabinet, which debates policy initiatives and resolves crisis scenarios. The Supreme Court studies constitutional law and rules on several cases. And the Press Corps covers all aspects of the conference, producing several editions of a Princeton Model Congress Newsletter.