Utah 8th-grader Brecklynn Brown was given the final question of Wednesday night’s debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris.
Brecklynn, a student in the Nebo School District, won an essay contest looking for the one question students would ask of the Democratic and Republican candidates for vice president of the United States, and she chose to focus on partisanship and the examples lawmakers are setting for young people.
Here’s what you need to know:
Brecklynn Asked Pence & Harris How Citizens Are Expected to Get Along When Lawmakers Show No ‘Unity’ or ‘Respect’
At the close of Wednesday’s heated debate between Pence, President Donald Trump’s incumbent vice president, and Harris, former Vice President Joe Biden’s pick for his second in command, Brecklynn’s earnest inquiry was thrust into the spotlight.
Moderator Susan Page, of USA Today, asked Pence and Harris the question for Brecklynn.
Here’s what she asked the candidates, per her school district:
When I watch the news, all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans. When I watch the news, all I see is citizen fighting against citizen. When I watch the news, all I see are two candidates from opposing parties trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?
Our nation’s capital is setting a poor example of unity and respect. No matter who we are and what we stand for, we all want to be heard and we all want to be acknowledged, but no one wants to listen or understand the person on the other side of the line.
Nothing is going to change until someone breaks this trend of arguments and anger. Each citizen is accountable and each citizen has their agency to not allow our country to be divided by differing opinions. Your examples could make all the difference to bring us together. How is your presidency going to unite and heal our country?
Pence Referenced the Friendship Between Late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg & Antonin Scalia as a Lesson for Coming Together Despite Political Differences
VP Pence responds to 8th grader's question from Utah: "If our leaders can't get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?"
— ABC News (@ABC) October 8, 2020
Pence thanked Brecklynn for her “wonderful question” and referenced the longtime friendship between the late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia as an example for how Americans have the ability to set partisanship aside and support one another.
“They were polar opposites on the Supreme Court of the United States, one very liberal and one very conservative,” Pence said. “But what’s been learned since their passing is that the two of them, and their families, were the very closest of friends.:
Pence added that “here in America, we can debate” and “vigorously disagree,” but once debates end, “We come together as Americans.”
Harris Said That Joe Biden’s Legislative History Indicated Someone Willing to Work Across the Aisle & Said Brecklynn Made Her Believe ‘the Future Is Bright’
Sen. Harris responds to 8th grader's question from Utah: "If our leaders can't get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?"
— ABC News (@ABC) October 8, 2020
Harris pointed to Biden’s past as a legislator, in which he befriended Republicans and Democrats, and said that the deadly 2017 white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was the breaking point at which he decided to run for president again.
“It so troubled him and upset him that there was that kind of hate and division, and what propelled him over the course of the past four years is seeing what she described,” Harris said.
Harris added that Biden has “known pain, known suffering and known love” in his 77 years.
But, if “the future is bright,” she added, “it will be because of your leadership.”
Brecklynn’s History Teacher Congratulated Her on the Question, Noting It Was the First Time a Vice Presidential Debate Was Held In Utah
Brecklynn’s history teacher, Amy Burge, said in a statement that she jumped at the chance to have her students participate in the statewide essay contest, with the vice presidential debate coming to Utah, and that she “loved” Brecklynn’s question.
“When I saw the contest, I thought it was perfect,” Burge said. “First, it was an opportunity for my students to really think about what is important to them, and second, it was an authentic writing experience where they had a chance to get their voices heard, and finally, it was a chance to be civically engaged. “I love Brecklynn’s question, and I am looking forward to watching the debate tonight and having Kamala Harris and Mike Pence both answer what they will do to unite and heal our country.”
Over 700 essays were submitted by K-12 students across Utah, the Deseret News reported.