Oct 25 – Oregon Senator Ron Wyden visited Grant on Monday to talk with students from AP Government class, Leadership class and Grant’s Constitution Team. Packed into the choir room, students asked about Wyden’s position on health care, immigration and Government surveillance, among other topics.
One subject Wyden made a point to discuss was higher education and student debt. “In my day, college was a big expense, but it was like buying a car,” he said. It “wouldn’t dominate your life.” He expressed concern about access to college education and the heaps of debt that swamp many graduates today.
In 1974, he earned a doctorate degree from U of O’s law school and founded the Portland chapter of the Gray Panthers. Their website describes the group as “an intergenerational education and advocacy organization dedicated to achieving social and economic justice and peace for all people.”
He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1981 and served there until his move to the Senate in 1996. Wyden is best known, perhaps, for his eagerness to cross tense political party lines to get stuff done.
On March 6th, 2013, Wyden joined Republican Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster protesting the Obama administration’s drone policy, an unprecedented move in Washington today. In his own words, Wyden wants to “find ways to bring people together and solve some of these big problems.”
One way to move America “forward,” Wyden believes, is to hold politicians like himself accountable by inviting them to face to face meetings like the one held at Grant on Monday. It’s harder to avoid tough issues when the questioners are looking you in the eye.
“I thought he was very accommodating to our really kind of abrasive questions,” says Senior Madison Moscowitz, a member of Grant’s Constitution Team. She asked Wyden if he thought there was a balance between liberty and national security in America, referencing the recent NSA file leaks by Edward Snowden. Wyden explained that he believes the secret surveillance conducted by the United States government is “out of whack.”
“I was definitely pleased with a large majority of the questions that were asked,” says senior Jack Schrott. “There were a couple that seemed redundant, but the breadth of the discussion was good.”
Wyden says he was impressed. “I feel very good when I get out to Oregon high schools and I get a chance to have this kind of discussion,” he said, ending the meeting by offering internships at his office to anyone in the room that was interested. ♦
Grant Magazine Staffer Madeline Metz contributed to this report.