Sam Reed, Washington Secretary of State, visited Bellevue College on April 10 to talk about the importance of student civic engagement and its effect on the future of higher education in the state. The event was part of BC’s “Civics Week,” an event that aimed to raise political awareness among BC students. The event was organized by BC’s Office of Student Legislative Affairs (OSLA).
It’s been a very busy couple of weeks for Reed, as he visits state colleges and speaks to promote civic engagement among students. On April 10, he and his team had visited three state colleges in Seattle, Bothell, Shoreline and still needed to make their way down to Tacoma. Despite his tight schedule, Reed came to Bellevue College at 3:30 p.m. and spoke before a room full of enthusiastic students.
“Enthusiastic” is not a lightly chosen word to describe the vibe of the audience that day. If BC students were ever accused of being politically oblivious, the questions they asked the secretary proved differently. These questions varied from “How does your office ensure that people of color are voting more often and taking an active part in civic engagement?” to “What are you planning on doing after you retire?” to “What is your favorite movie and why?” (He answered Dr. Strangelove, because it both “scares the heck out of you and makes you laugh”).
The secretary started by making a five-minute speech about the importance of civic engagement for today’s youth. He mentioned some state initiatives in progress like legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage. He repeated that students should register to vote in order to get involved in such initiatives, and explained how to do so (see sidebar on page 5 for details).
“It is critical that you do this, this year,” Reed said. “You have so much at stake.”
In response to ASG President Brandon Anderson’s question about how to get more colored people involved in voting, Reed said he has hired a Chilean-American woman who is focusing on things such as language issues among minorities by working on translations. She works with the ethnic groups to encourage their participation.
Minority participation, Reed said, is very important because for the first time in history, we have “minority majority” districts in Washington, districts where minority races make up most of the population. “2012 is going to be a dramatic election year,” said Reed. Participation by everyone is therefore crucial.
Another question asked was “Companies today would rather hire someone from China than from the US for certain demanding jobs. What is the state doing about that? Are we making college more affordable? Are we encouraging more people to get into higher education?”
According to Reed, The state has unfortunately reduced the funding of higher education because of the nation’s budget. “And by the way, that affects my office too; I’ve lost staff,” he said.
On the positive side, the state is providing much more money for scholarships. The state is also opening more schools. Edmonds Community College, for example, has opened a whole new ranch that focuses on teaching the technologies needed to work in the aerospace industries.
Monica Mendoza, Organizing Director for the OSLA, is among the people who have put the most effort into organizing this event and all the other events of College Civics Week. “He [Sam Reed] really cares about students and spreading awareness about how to be civically engaged,” said Mendoza.
Reed has been in office since the year 2000 and will retire this coming January. To the question “What are you planning on doing after you retire?” he laughed and answered, “Goof off!”