Campus was full of excitement this past Friday when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to address students and community members in the Mabel Brown Room through a discussion on gun violence and a question-and-answer session.
According to the polls on realclearpolitics, Clinton is currently the top democratic candidate for the upcoming primary election.
The Mabel Brown Room was packed with spectators, including a number of Keene State College students.
KSC senior Zach Brown said that he was there to ask Clinton about her stance on climate change.
“[She] put in this energy plan called Challenge Grants. It’s something I’m pretty interested in hearing. I want to hear what she has to say about our specific town in general,” Brown said. “It’s like a rewards system…I’m just wondering what she will do to reward our towns for going green.”
KSC sophomore Alyssa Flattery said that, although she was attending for a Communications class, she is also a Clinton supporter. “I think we need a woman in office,” Flattery said.
KSC first-year Toby Riffle said that he was there to hear what Clinton had to say and become more informed. “I’m kind of weighing out between Bernie and Hilary. I’m still a little undecided so hopefully this will clear things up,” Riffle said.
In addition to curious students, there was a group of protestors outside of the student center prior to the town hall.
Among these protestors was KSC Republican president Kate Sharon. “Diversity of opinion is good, I think Republicans are underrepresented here at Keene State, so that’s why I’m here,” Sharon said.
Clinton said her campaign was focused heavily on gun control and gun violence, a topic that was introduced with KSC graduate and gun control activist Clai Lasher-Sommers sharing her story.
Lasher-Sommers said she was a survivor of gun violence and was shot by her stepfather when she was 13 years old.
“It’s not easy for me to talk about my own personal experience, but it’s important that people really, really understand the effects that gun violence has on not only the people who are shot, but on the community as a whole,” Lasher-Sommers said.
Lasher-Sommers said that she was shot in her bedroom, and then was brought to Old Keene Hospital, which is now the Elliot Center on campus.
“Today, decades later, I still feel the effects of gun violence and domestic abuse,” Lasher-Sommers said. “I feel it like a flashback, with every shooting in New Hampshire and across this country.”
Lasher-Sommers said that she refuses to believe that we should all live in fear of being shot, which is why she supports Clinton and her views on gun violence.
“This is not a new fight, but it’s a winnable one,” Lasher-Sommers said.
Clinton said that she wants more people to hear stories like Lasher-Sommers’s in hopes that it will inspire better gun control laws and practices.
According to Clinton, 90 people a day die as a result of gun violence.
“As president, I will push and achieve universal background checks, something that a majority of Americans support, and something that a majority of gun-owners support,” Clinton said.
Clinton continued and said that she would go as far as to use executive action if necessary to achieve this goal because of its significance.
Following the discussion on gun violence, Clinton answered a number of audience questions. She addressed issues such as student debt, education reform, drug-related concerns, equality in the LGBT community and environmental issues. Clinton said that student debt was another important issue to her.
According to Clinton, there are over 40 million Americans with student debt, but it is also possible for them to refinance that debt.
“Everybody else can refinance their debt, corporations can refinance their debt, you can refinance your mortgage, you can refinance your car payment, why is it students can’t refinance their debt?” Clinton said. “Too many people are being held back because of this debt.”
Clinton said that those in debt could pay a percentage of their income and not have to worry about high fixed rates they could not afford if she were to be elected.
Additionally, Clinton discussed student loans.
“I think the FAFSA application is absurd,” Clinton said. “The application turns people off, and it penalizes people like your parents, so it’s a lose-lose.”
Clinton said that if students could work part-time that her goal would be to provide debt-free tuition to those students for public colleges.
“The federal government should not be making a profit off of student loans,” Clinton said. “The hardest part about going to college shouldn’t be figuring how to pay for it.”
Additionally, education reform was discussed. “We have to do more to actually pay attention to what educators tell us about what will work in the classroom,” Clinton said. “It’s too much about the latest fads, the latest products, the latest models, instead of taking a deep breath and talking to experts who have done an enormous amount of research about what really works.”
Clinton said that early education is important because the first five years of a child’s life is a vital time for learning. She said that she was looking forward to working with teachers and parents alike.
Another major concern addressed was the drug problem in the country. Clinton said that there is currently a heroin epidemic that affects the lives of so many, and in order to progress there would have to be changes made to the way that it is handled.
“I really believe it’s a public health issue,” Clinton said. “It’s really about the lives that are affected, and all those who are trying to help their loved one or trying to cope with the fact that they can’t.”
According to Clinton, only one in ten seeking treatment for heroin addiction have access to it. Clinton said that in Laconia, NH, drug addiction is beginning to be treated as an issue of health and that those suffering from addiction are provided with access to treatment rather than serving jail time.
Furthermore, Clinton touched upon the LGBT community.
“Largely because of my strong opposition to discrimination of any sort and my personal relationships with a lot of people over the years, I certainly concluded that marriage equality should be the law of the land,” Clinton said. Same-sex marriage was federally legalized this past Summer, and Clinton said she is pleased with this outcome. Moreover, environmental issues were discussed. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was one topic an audience member brought to light.
Clinton said that she would want more research done, because there are certain instances where GMOs could be helpful, such as in the case of drought-resistant crops.
However, she said that this research would be necessary because there is so much that is unknown about GMOs. “I’m a huge believer in safety and the right to know,” Clinton said. “I’m not pro, forward, no questions asked…but I’m also not anti, no questions asked.”
Clinton said that she supports the Department of Agriculture labeling products and providing information to the consumers.
The Town Hall with Clinton was possible due to the American Democracy Project (ADP). ADP is an organization that supports informing and engaging college students in democracy, encouraging them to become engaged in their communities. Student body president Bobby Graham is involved with ADP. Graham said that through ADP he has worked closely with a number of professors and has had opportunities to travel and present at conventions.
“[ADP] really focuses on civic engagement, and the importance of civic engagement here at Keene State College. It has opened so many doors and so many opportunities for me,” Graham said. Those interested in involvement with KSC’s chapter of ADP can contact KSC economics professor Patrick Dolenc at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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