At a time when most students and families are looking ahead to vacations and camp and free-time, three Montclair High School sophomores are getting a lot of press for taking action.  Whether you receive updates, read The Huffington Post, check out Yahoo! and ABC News, or received the Star Ledger on your steps this morning (page 19!), you’ve probably heard about a national petition which originated in Montclair.  MHS students, Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis, Sammi Siegel, want to see a woman calling time and asking questions during the upcoming Presidential Debates, and their petition, which they called “It’s Time for a Woman Moderator: Equality in the 2012 Presidential Debates!” makes that clear.

These three teenagers wrote their petition in response to a civics curriculum which encouraged active engagement of students in politics. They have already, as of this writing, amassed almost 100,000 signatures to “Tell the Commission on Presidential Debates to have a woman moderate one of the debates now.”  Considering the heated political conversations still going on regarding local politics, it’s wonderful to see local teenagers show the adults how to affect change in a civilized manner.

Their petition is a clearly worded demand for change.

Moderators are chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is made up of three women out of seventeen commissioners.  20 years is way too long: we’re encouraging the Commission to name at least one woman to moderate one of the three upcoming presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Presidential debate moderators have a lot power when it comes to helping the American public to better understand candidates. Being a moderator is a tough job; the moderator must keep debate flowing, make sure candidates stay focused on relevant topics, and maintain an unbiased stance.

Men are no more capable of performing these tasks than women — but for the last two decades, only men have been given the job.

Women and men will never be truly equal in our country until they’re one and the same in positions of power and both visible in politics.  We need to take immediate action in order to move towards this change. There is no reason why a woman shouldn’t have a chance to show what she’s capable of by moderating debates in the upcoming election.

Indeed. Congratulations to Emma, Elena, and Sammi for raising consciousness and jumpstarting the political dialogue of the upcoming 2012 Presidential Election. Well done!

Read and sign the full text of the petition.

photo credit: Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger