Congressman Joe Kennedy discussed civic engagement and how students can help resolve issues in their local community in the auditorium c-block Friday, April 26, and these discussions had contradictory responses from students.
He opened the discussion by asking students to name issues that concern them, receiving responses ranging from immigration and climate change to comprehensive sexual education and student debt.
Kennedy, a democrat in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District, said that students, like all individuals, are an integral part of civic engagement, and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to advocate for their beliefs.
“Our country is stronger when more people are involved in the democracy,” he said. “We work to open up the doors to civic engagement as wide open as we can.”
To address problems at a state level and create long-lasting impact, Kennedy encouraged students to “link up with other high schoolers across the country.” He said that political activism is important because “for better or worse, government matters.”
However, junior Margaret Needham expressed frustration with his message. “I liked the main gist of what he was saying. But he was vague about the impact we could have.”
Needham added, “He didn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency that me and my fellow students have in terms of issues like climate change.”
Kennedy said that he ensures that everyone’s voice is heard “to make progress on some of these issues”. He added, “Regardless of who you are, where you come from, or whether you vote for me, my job is to make sure that when you run into a problem, I will help you.”
He elaborated on climate change, about which several students expressed concern. Overall, he said that the nation’s progress to mitigate the impact of climate change “doesn’t look great,” particularly with the partisan split over the issue. According to Kennedy, the biggest challenge is “to make sure that other people in other parts of the country are with us as well.”
Connecting and communicating with individuals is an important part of his job, Kennedy added. In explaining his role as a politician, he said, “it’s not always going to be everything the way I want it to be.”
A fire alarm interrupted the presentation, forcing students and teachers to evacuate the building. The presentation was extended to the beginning of e-block to allow students to ask questions.