Welcome to the auditorium here at the Kellogg Conference Centre, Gallaudet University!
We're currently debating topical resolutions, and have already adopted updated policy on Venezuela and Darfur, and are now in the midst of a debate over the Employee Free Choice Act, a piece of legislation which will encourage unions to sign up new members and obtain the right to collective bargaining for union members. Any union signing up 50% plus one of the workforce will be formally certified as the bargaining agent.
This seems so obviously reasonable that it is hard for an outsider to understand why it needs to be debated. Even the Conservatives, no friends of the unions they, would never have tried to attack the right to organise so blatantly. And this is one of the indicators that marks out just how different the framework for debate is here.
In healthcare, a facet that I've already touched upon, I want to talk about empowering communities to take a direct interest in how healthcare is provided, and what priorities are made. Here, the concerns are so much more basic, founded on the need for access in the wealthiest country on Earth. Most European countries would consider it to be a matter of shame if individual citizens didn't have the right to healthcare and high levels of access at that.
On trade, there are concerns about the secrecy underpinning the formation of trading agreements. I was astonished to discover that the President is seeking the right to make agreements with other nations, and place them in front of Congress with no right of amendment, for adoption.
I've spoken in support of government support for the development of nuclear energy (we lost by a margin of 5:4), as part of a transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources. Frankly, I think that to overlook the potential role of nuclear energy in managing that transition is naive, but I accept that fears over safety, particularly in the light of Seven Mile Island, tend to override the rather dry economic argument.
The difference between debates at our conferences, and those here is a vast one, although I do think that the method used here is much more participatory, and thus more fun. And fun is a thoroughly good thing.