By Delphine Burns
Students from every Claremont College bustled into Benson Auditorium searching for an empty seat, preferably closer to the front. Posters hung on the walls occupied with words of welcome and promise. The low, droning buzz of enthusiastic voices filled the auditorium with an overwhelming sense of community. Then, after a few short introductions by Interim President of Pitzer, Thomas Poon, and Senate Execute Board members Andrew Lydens and Josue Pasillas, the first presidential candidate to speak on Pitzer’s campus strolled onto the stage. The growing buzz of talking and laughter paused, and the crowd became silent, eager to hear what 2016 Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley had to say.
Hosted by the Pitzer Student Senate, this event occurred at 4:30PM on Thurs., Sept. 24 and was open to all students from the Claremont Colleges. However, this event attracted such a large audience that the crowd exceeded the auditorium’s occupancy, and a screen was set up outside, televising the event for those who could not find seating inside.
Former Governor of Maryland O’Malley introduced himself by stating his membership in the Democratic Party and clarifying that this was the only political party to which he has belonged. He also referenced a quote Pope Francis said to congress, and then addressed the audience with this quote. “I am in dialogue with you,” O’Malley told the students. The crowd remained silent as O’Malley revealed his plan of “rebuilding the truth of the American dream.” He talked about issues such as growing economic injustice and inequality, harm of trickle down economics, valuing families, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, and climate change.
When addressing climate change, O’Malley told the audience he was the first candidate in the 2016 presidential race to propose a plan for a Clean Energy Grid. The crowd cheered. He voiced his support for comprehensive immigration reform, and talked about how he successfully passed the DREAM Act in Maryland. The crowd cheered again. He spoke about reforming the American economy, and how he believes the economy consists of people, not money. The crowd cheered once more.
When his speech concluded, and the question and answer session opened, many students filed toward the two microphones on either side of the auditorium. A wide variety of policy issues were covered in the questions asked. From foreign policy to poverty to reproductive rights, O’Malley explained his propositions for each issue.
When asked about the crisis in Syria, O’Malley declared he believes that the United States should accept the Syrian refugees.
In terms of making higher education more affordable to more students, O’Malley believes congress should reduce interest rates on student loans, and that repayment of debt should be income-based. He also believes that more transferrable college credits should be available for students in their final year of high school. He would like to see movement toward the possibility for students to obtain debt-free degrees, and create more pathways for different types of degree attainment.
In regards to furthering LGBTQ, rights, O’Malley would like to focus on the transgender community and their protection under the law.
On immigration, O’Malley responded that he is “not for building walls.” He said, “America is not symbolized by barbed wire fences. It is symbolized by the statue of liberty.” The crowd erupted with applause when this remark was made.
O’Malley believes that the military is in a “constant state of reform” and that America should not continue investing extensive funds in the military.
He also does not believe in the prison industrial complex and is “opposed to for-profit prisons.”
In regard to working with Republicans, O’Malley said he is willing to reach across party lines to create change, and that a president must be “relentless in their own tribe to be able to reach the other tribe.”
When asked about the recent controversies and issue America has taken with funding Planned Parenthood, O’Malley said he believes Planned Parenthood has been “wrongly attacked.”
At the end of O’Malley’s speech, he posed a question. He asked, “Do we still have what it takes to forge a better future?” Then he answered, “I believe we do.” He proceeded to declare that this race would be a tough fight. “I like tough fights,” he said smiling.