The start of a new semester at Keene State College in the midst of the Presidential election cycle brings with it a wave of Presidential candidates on campus. On Saturday, August 24, Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden spoke on issues such as LGBT civil rights, U.S. military members’ mental health, cancer research and more topics on Appian Way. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang also spoke about the citizens dividend and American jobs on campus on Monday, August 26.
Before Biden spoke, one of his New Hampshire field organizers, Aislinn Lowth, spoke to attendees regarding her own personal support of Biden.
“I saw a video online of Vice President Joe Biden speaking about the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign that was launched under the Obama administration. In that speech he said, and he made it very clear, that sexualt assault was never okay under any circumstances. I was right to feel hopeful. It was a step in the right direction,” Lowth said.
Other speakers included Student Body President and President of the KSC Democrats Davis Bernstein, Keene mayor Kendall Lane and United States Navy veteran Eric Golnick, who introduced Biden to the stage after speaking.
“As someone working on the frontlines to mitigate the suicide and substance abuse epidemic in the veteran community, I can say with resolve that America’s vets, first responders and their families cannot afford to start over. We must improve and expand upon the Affordable Care Act, and Vice President Biden has the experience, the knowledge and the action plan to do that,” Golnick said. “On a personal level Vice President Biden and President Obama made it possible for me as an LGBT servicemember to serve our nation openly.”
Biden began his own remarks by stating that he has a tradition of not criticizing the Presidents’ foreign policy while they are abroad working on foreign policy, calling it an “omission by intention.”
Biden spoke about the mental health crisis among American military service members.
“There are roughly 300,000 soldiers who are coming home with post traumatic stress disorder,” Biden said. “More military personnel are dying of suicide than there are being killed in action. We have to pay attention to it.”
Biden also condemned President Donald Trump’s administration’s recent decision regarding the LGBT community.
“The Trump administration has filed a brief and gone to the Supreme Court of the United States to say that LGBT people have no civil rights,” Biden said. “We have to pass the Equality Act, which one day under my administration we’ll get it passed.”
Biden also stressed the importance of universal healthcare. He cited his own personal experience dealing with his late son’s cancer diagnosis.
“I want to make healthcare a right, not a privilege,” Biden said. “For me that means a public option. The fastest, most cost-effective way to get universal coverage is protecting and building on Obamacare while increasing access and reducing cost.”
Other topics Biden discussed included the importance of education, getting to net zero emissions, the state of the economy and his stance on Trump’s position in this election.
“We can’t just be a campaign about beating President Donald Trump. He’s tracking in some of the ugliest and darkest forces that have long run through this nation’s history,” Biden said. “A simple campaign is not enough to beat him, it has to be a movement. It has to be a movement grounded on the values and ideals of the finest of this nation. We have to restore the soul of the nation.”
Similar to Biden, Presidential candidate Andrew Yang also disapproves of the Trump administration. Yang spoke in the flag room of the Student Center on Monday, August 26.
“I saw Donald Trump’s victory as a giant red flag where we had tens of millions of Americans who decided the right move was to elect a narcissistic reality TV star as President,” Yang said.
One issue Yang discussed in detail is that of technology and artificial intelligence (A.I.) taking over American jobs. Yang described how truck driver jobs in Arizona are already becoming automated, along with multiple other professions across the nation.
“This is the direction our economy is heading. Donald Trump is a symptom, a manifestation of the fact that this is the greatest economic transformation in the history of our country, what experts are calling the fourth industrial revolution,” Yang said.
The idea of a citizen’s dividend was another idea Yang explored. This is the concept that each citizen of the U.S. receives a certain amount of money each month.
“The first time you hear it, it sounds like a joke. It sounds like a gimmick, too good to be true,” Yang said. “If you think of our country’s history you’ll find it’s a deeply American ideal. Thomas Paine was the one to call it a citizens dividend…It passed the U.S. House of Representatives twice in 1971.”
Yang referenced the stipend that is given to Alaska residents. According to Yang, that stipend is paid for because of oil, and that technology is the “oil of the twenty first century.” Hence, technology and data would be what allows for a citizens dividend.
“After we pass it (citizens divided) and you get the money, how are you going to spend it? How much of it is going to stay right here in New Hampshire? Most of it will go to repairs, day care expenses, school loans, little league sign ups. A lot of it is also going to go to non profits and healthcare institutions. It’s going to supercharge your mainstream economy,” Yang said. “This is the trickle up economy from people, families, communities, up. We can make this happen very quickly with one thousand dollars a month.”
In regards to education, Yang said more importance and national investments should be placed on education in vocational, technical and apprenticeship programs that are often overlooked. He related this point back to the idea that many jobs are becoming automateable, but blue collar jobs, like plumbing, are going to be near impossible to ever replace. Yang also related the issue of the student loan debt crisis back to the citizens dividend, claiming that the one thousand dollars per month would assist in alleviating the costs of college.
Both events were sponsored by the American Democracy Project, which is an initiative that aims to create engagement and interest in civic life in the U.S. More information on Biden’s campaign can be found at joebiden.com. More information on Yang’s campaign can be found at yang2020.com.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at