United States Senate candidate Jason Kander hopes to speak to students on equal footing — as a fellow millennial.
Current Missouri Secretary of State and Democratic nominee for senate Kander spoke at the Winifred Moore Auditorium Tuesday. According to Kander, who is 35, he is the first millennial to be elected to statewide office in the U.S.
“I am a member of the same generation as you. Being a millennial is one of the perspectives that I take to and it’s really the perspective I would like to use to speak with you today because it is clearly your perspective,” Kander said.
The organization that brought Kander to campus was Webster Votes, a committee designed to get students involved in fall 2016 election events. The committee has so far organized debate watching parties and a voter registration event that registered 40 students. They are also planning to bring other speakers to campus and provide transportation to the polls on election day.
Director of student engagement Jennifer Stewart brought members of the committee together last semester to create cohesion among election events on campus.
“In the past, there wasn’t really a central place to get everything you need to know about all the election events happening on campus,” Stewart said.
Committee member and history department chair Warren Rosenblum initiated contact with both candidates vying for the U.S. senatorial seat in November. Rosenblum eached out to Webster alumnus and St. Louis County Director of Elections Eric Fey to find the best way to reach the candidates.
The committee hoped to bring Kander’s opponent Roy Blunt to campus as well. Rosenblum said although Blunt’s office was easier to reach, the campaign, ultimately, did not follow through.
Kander’s speech emphasized the difference between himself and “career politicians” in Washington like Blunt. His youth has allowed the candidate to present himself as an alternative in Washington who is not beholden to special interests.
“I want to talk to you all, more than anything, about how our generation can change that,” Kander said.
Before his political debut, Kander was deployed to Afghanistan while serving in the Army National Guard. He then graduated from law school and went on to serve in the Missouri legislature as a representative from 2008 to 2012 before becoming secretary of state.
Kander did not take his opponent directly to task during the speech. Instead, he discussed the student debt crisis and how Washington cannot effectively respond to the issue as his main point.
“I think people will stand in front of a millennial audience and talk about this because they think it’s the only thing you care about,” Kander said. “But truthfully, for anyone who is struggling with college debt there is a good chance they are concerned about the minimum wage and income equality. Americans experience these issues as they relate to their lives.”
International relations sophomore Isaiah Santiago went to the speech out of more than just curiosity about Kander.
“I was interested in what he had to say to us – the small liberal arts college,” Santiago said. “I think he’s brought a good conversation to Mr. Blunt and I think Blunt has handled it horribly. His policy reflects the millennial outlook on life. He’s young and he’s a veteran – you don’t find that in Washington.”
Junior marketing major Megan Price, who joined the Webster Votes committee in August, said 106 people attended Kander’s visit.
“I noticed a general interest among students who were concerned about politics, not just voting Democratic or Republican,” Price said. “There is a group of people at Webster who are very engaged who take the time to educate themselves and the attendance we’ve had at these events reflects that.”
Price also said the first debate-watching party Sept. 26 was a standing-room-only event.
Go to http://webter.edu/campus-life/vote to view remaining events on campus before the general election Nov. 8.