Coalition of student leaders make concerns heard
Following a 74-26 Senate vote today, President Barack Obama signed a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling — putting an end to what has been long-drawn-out debate, and steering America away from what would be an unprecedented default on U.S. debt.
USC Student Body President Joe Wright, who is one of 120 student leaders behind the “Do We Have a Deal Yet?” movement that urged leaders in Washington, D.C., to reach a bipartisan deal to raise the debt limit, said the deal is about what he expected.
“It’s what I kind of envisioned would happen because not either party is going to get their complete way. It’s just not going to happen,” Wright said. “So they give the most extreme solutions that they want, and they kind of meet in the middle.”
Wright said student leaders at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland began the “Do We Have a Deal Yet?” initiative in order to get student opinions on the debt debate heard in Washington. The coalition reached out to Obama through a jointly signed letter. As a group, the 120 student leaders represent nearly two million college students, but Wright said he was unsure anything would come from the letter because he can imagine a lot of people write letters to the president.
The letter expressed the group’s hope that representatives in Washington could “work together to find a solution to this problem in an aggressive yet balanced way,” and their concern that the young people of America would be the one’s to “shoulder the consequences of gridlock during a time that requires bold action.”
Wright, who is double-majoring in finance and marketing, said he took several things into consideration before signing the letter. His foremost consideration was whether signing the letter aligned with the best interests of the university.
“A lot of times cutbacks come from colleges, you know, higher education and public education. So some of the things they’re reducing is education research. Or, for example, Pell grants, which for a lot of people who can’t afford to go to school rely on Pell grants, and that’s something that could have been cut,” Wright said. “From a broad point of view, even if you don’t cut colleges but you cut K through 12 then we’re not going to have anyone going to college because we don’t have the resources we need to educate our students to get them to college.”
After consulting with his cabinet, Wright signed the letter.
“We are uniting as people who don’t really know each other and we have a common cause and we want to see something done,” he said.
Wright said they didn’t hear much of the letter immediately but that the initiative gained some momentum after holding a press conference, which USC’s Secretary of Community-Government Relations James Strickland attended, in Washington. After the press conference, the signees were contacted through email by the White House.
On July 26, the signees sat in on a conference call with Obama and other senior White House officials to discuss the nation’s debt. Details of the call cannot be discussed.
“We had a conversation with Obama who came on the line for 10 minutes and talked to us, which was really cool,” Wright said.