On April 4, the Kalamazoo College Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) invited students, faculty, and community members to a panel discussion of various Michigan Politicians. Attendees were able to listen to the perspectives of these politicians on multiple issues including the economy, immigration, the Flint Water Crisis, and gun violence.
Kururama Sanchez, Program Associate for the CCE, took the lead on organizing this event. “[It has been] done in the past but it wasn’t as successful due to other circumstances… [this time] we tried to make [the event] more publicized. [We even] invited people from [Western Michigan University] to attend.”
The politicians that sat on the panel included Paul Clements, democratic candidate for State Representative of Michigan’s Sixth District; Julie Rogers (D), Kalamazoo County Commissioner up for re-election; Darrin Camilleri (D), State Representative of Michigan’s 23rd District; Jon Hoadley (D), State Representative of Michigan’s 60th District.
“[Our goal] is to allow [everyone] to engage in political discourse that is important to you all… When planning this event, we made sure to have equal representation from both parties, [unfortunately] the two Republican politicians were unable to attend at the last minute,” Sanchez explained before turning the proceedings over to mediator Dr. Justin Berry, K’s Assistant Professor of Political Science.
The politicians were given the chance to explain each of their priorities in their positions or perspective positions and their stances on numerous issues. Camilleri explained his goals while in office, “In my district, [my priorities are to, one,] find a way to invest in jobs and infrastructure. [Second, to] get more education funding for schools and give all children equal opportunities. [And third] to build Michigan to last.”
All the politicians advised students to get involved in politics and that there are a lot of opportunities to do so. Rogers recommended “particularly to the women to make sure you have the experience [and] make sure to network and reach out to all parts of the community.”
Kacey Cook, Post Baccalaureate Fellow for the CCE, commented on the necessity for events like this. “A facet of civic engagement is being politically aware [in] how our programs are impacted by political policy and understanding that our work extends beyond what we do in our jobs, organizations, and programs,” Cook said.
“The biggest thing is that the CCE wants people to engage civically in other ways,” Sanchez continued. “Students have a voice to be heard and [need to be] involved in the electoral process… to know who and what they are voting for.”