As part of a tour of college campuses, former presidential speechwriter David Halperin addressed a packed MultiCultural Center Theater audience last night about what they can do to be the change they want to see.
Halperin, former speechwriter to President Bill Clinton, focused most of his lecture on the work being done by Campus Progress, an organization he currently heads. Campus Progress supports student publications on 50 campuses and assists national student issue campaigns at the local and national levels.
Before delving further into Campus Progress’s goals, Halperin began by noting that in the last two elections young people voted in record numbers and demonstrated growing concern over progressive issues such as the war in Iraq and college affordability.
“Young people are starting their own organizations and are learning how to make the public pay attention to what they’re doing,” Halperin said.
The former Howard Dean presidential campaign adviser and U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence member emphasized the need for students to engage in debate about issues such as the war in Iraq, civil rights and global warming.
To assist in this informed discussion, he said Campus Progress encourages the elimination of pollution on college campuses through such innovative techniques as electricity generated using clean sources, including wind and solar power.
In addition, it sponsors showings of former Vice President Al Gore’s global warming film “An Inconvenient Truth” on college campuses.
Halperin also addressed the crowd regarding the affordability of a college education. Specifically, he applauded the recent increase in the amount awarded through Pell Grants, which are need-based federal dollars for disadvantaged college students.
“We are interested in the federal government raising the Pell Grant for lower income students, and making student loans more fair for students at all levels.”
Later in his presentation, Halperin criticized the Bush administration for the on-going war in Iraq. He said the president’s plans have worsened the Middle Eastern country’s situation, as evidenced by Iran and al-Qaeda’s involvement in the area following the U.S. invasion, and has had the additional effect of turning America into a pariah.
“We’ve seen our own government do things that make us ashamed, like secret prisons, and torture and spying on our own people at home,” Halperin said. “It has really hurt our reputation in the world, and it has really hurt our strength.”
As a solution to problems in the Middle East, Halperin espoused a phased withdrawal of troops, as well as cooperation with other nations in the region.
“One way or another there has got to be a political solution, not a military solution to this conflict,” Halperin said.
Second-year linguistics major Anna Daly said she appreciated Campus Progress’ balanced approach to its tasks.
“I think it’s exciting to see a group like this working in a bipartisan way to improve the government,” Daly said.