Future of politics, major national issues discussed at first SUSO event of semester

Susy Avery, politician and former chairwoman of the Michigan Republic Party speaks on a panel with professor Maxine Berman and Debbie Dingell, wife of Congressman John Dingell and important member of the Michigan Democratic Party speaks to students, faculty, and community members about the importance of being involved in politics during the Speak Up, Speak Out forum "From the Ballot Box to the Inauguration: Looking Back, Looking Forward" Wednesday night in the UC Auditorium. (Kaitlin Thoresen/Staff Photographer)

About 60 people gathered for a panel discussion on November's election and what it means for the nation's future just days after President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term.

The event, "From the Ballot Box to the Inauguration: Looking Back, Looking Forward," was a combined session of Griffin Endowed Chair and the Speak Up Speak Out series, with an hour devoted to each portion.

Debbie Dingell, the wife of U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and a talk show host, sat on the Griffin Endowed Chair panel with Suzy Avery, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder as the executive director of the Michigan Women's Commission. Assistant Professor of Political Science Maxine Berman moderated the conversation.

Dingell said the conversation surrounding the role of government in the state of Michigan, including how many local forms of government can be afforded, is complex.

“I think (Berman) was expecting this to be a Republican and Democratic speech,” she said. “But a lot of it, I think, is going to come down to more geographical divisions in terms of the money. The budget cuts and how you make those cuts is going to be a very, very difficult decision.”

Immigration was discussed at length, and Avery commended Snyder for working on the issue, particularly in Detroit, by asking all state departments what they can do to help address the issue.

“I think you're going to see a big change here in Michigan because (Snyder) wants to make Michigan the model for the rest of the nation for immigration,” she said.

Following this discussion, there was a Speak Up, Speak Out panel comprised of faculty and students to shed a local light on these issues. Political science professor Jim Hill moderated the panel, which comprised of economics professor Jason Taylor, political science department Chairperson Orlando Perez, College Democrats representative Candace Grooms, and College Republicans First-Vice Chair and China Township junior Alex Porrett.

Each panel member began with a brief presentation of their political views and a conversation on the distinction between the United States having a spending problem versus a deficit problem emerged.

Taylor showed several graphs and statistics illustrating his belief that the nation should cut back spending rather than raising taxes on the wealthy, but Grooms disagreed.

“One of the biggest problems in our state is that we're not investing in ourselves,” Grooms, a Detroit sophomore, said. “...I know a lot of people are thinking that we don't have the money to spend on these areas, but we can't afford not to spend money on our children.”

Ultimately, Dingell said it is important for youth to be involved in politics and to find a particular passion to pursue and work with.

“You young people are 25 percent of our population and 100 percent of our future,” she said.