Interview conducted by Raissi and Cheree Smith, News Editor
U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke D-TX delivered a speech Saturday at Sam Houston State University to potential voters about his campaign platforms.
O’Rourke has promised to visit each of Texas’s 254 counties on his campaign trail. He arrived at the Lowman Student Center Ballroom at 2 p.m. and spoke for an hour about a variety of issues including immigration, public schools and gun safety.
The Houstonian had an exclusive interview with O’Rourke, transcribed as follows.
You’ve called this election a “moment of truth” in the past, what do you mean by that?
“So many things that will define this country for generations to come will be decided this year. Things like– are we a country of walls? Are we a country that would ban all people of one religion? Are we a country that defines you, the press, as the enemy of the people? Or are we this aspirational, ambitious, bold, confident, strong people that I know us to be? [People] that can be defined by the goals that we pursue, like making sure everyone can see a doctor so that they can be well enough to live their full potential. Excellence in public education, affordability of higher education, ensuring that we meet the existential threat of climate change. These are all big things that we can accomplish, and I know that we are up to it, but it’s going to be this election that defines our changes. We’ve got to win this one.”
Overall, for the people that were here and also for the people who couldn’t make it, what do you want Huntsville citizens and SHSU students to take away from your visit?
“I feel incredibly grateful to Huntsville for inviting us back, to have another opportunity to listen and learn from those that I want to represent and serve. Everyone is important to me. I want to serve everyone in this state. I could care less whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, whether you just turned 18 and this is going to be your first election or whether you just turned 80 and this is going to be your 20th election.
Whatever differences would otherwise define us, this year, this moment, given the stakes, I want to make sure we can all come together. That’s why I’m showing up here at Sam Houston. That’s why I’m showing up at so many colleges and universities and community colleges. I want to be there for everyone and serve everyone on all the issues of the day. We’re going to allow the people of this state to define what those issues are and to set our expectations. So, just very grateful to the folks here in Huntsville.”
What is something you want to share with college-aged students to encourage them to vote?
“Most candidates won’t show up and listen to college-aged students. They’re told that college aged students don’t vote. My belief is that college aged students don’t vote because candidates don’t show up, so those students don’t see their priorities or themselves reflected in these campaigns.
So, by showing up to colleges, we’ve been engaging in issues like talking about gun safety, or affordability of higher education, or ensuring this planet doesn’t cook another 2 degrees Celsius after which it’s done for the generations that follow. Students who want to know why we’re fighting these wars in the middle east 17 years in Afghanistan, 27 years in Iraq. Why we’re fighting a war on drugs that’s become a war on people. Why you go to jail for possession of marijuana in this state when it’s legal in 29 other states and that arrest can define your prospects for jobs or higher education or whatever it is you want to do in life. Really good questions and ideas and suggestions come out of these meetings.
So, again, I just want to say thank you to all the students who’ve taken the time to ask really important, challenging questions and also to offer ideas and answers to those questions. All that has been so helpful to us in this campaign. To be a better candidate, to be a better public servant once in the Senate.”
What issue do you think aligns most with college students?
“It’s not a given policy issue, but it is an idea that every one of us should be able to live to our full potential. Right now, there are barriers like the least insured state of the country not being well enough to finish school. There are barriers like the inability for some to be able to obtain an excellent public school education. There are barriers in a state that is 49th in voter turnout on purpose because some people based on race or ethnicity have been drawn out of participation in their democracy, drawn out of a congressional district.
We can overcome those barriers, and in doing so not just become a more moral and a more just country, but we can assure that everyone lives to their full potential and that everyone benefits from that. The jobs that are worked, the educations that are finished, the families that are raised, the businesses that are started and the jobs that are created from that, the art that is produced. I mean, there is so much talent in this state, in this country right now, I just want to make sure that it can fly to its highest and best place, and in order to do that, everyone has got to be able to live to that full potential.”
The 2018 Senate election will take place Tuesday, November 6. O’Rourke is running against incumbent Senator Ted Cruz R-TX.