Cedarville University was the site of a presidential rally Sept. 22, a first for the 128-year-old school. Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson visited the university with his wife Candy, addressing a crowd of nearly 3,100 individuals about his plans to help the next generation succeed.
“I particularly love being in institutions of higher learning because it’s such an important part of who we are as a nation,” Carson said.
He said millennials and future generations are inheriting a hefty financial burden on behalf of the nation. But invoking “we the people” – a common phrase of his – Carson said he plans to give the power back to the people through school choice, incentives and advocating an informed public.
“Why is that (an informed public) so important? Because our founders, in particularly (Benjamin) Franklin and (Thomas) Jefferson, said that our freedom and our system is based upon a well-informed and educated populous,” Carson said. “And if we ever became anything other than that, the nature of our country would rapidly change. What were they saying? They were saying that if people are not well-informed, then they’re easy to manipulate and all you’d need are dishonest politicians and a dishonest media and away you go. And that’s what I fear is what is happening today.”
In light of education reform shared by President Obama – perhaps most recently free community college – Carson said during a press conference before Tuesday’s rally that he would change the education system by advocating school choice.
“We have found that the closer education is to home, the better kids do,” Carson told the media. “What we have to do is provide choice, because so many people are stuck in a bad situation, and we desperately need all of our people to succeed, because we only have 330 million and we’re competing against China, India – places that have a billion people – and we have to develop all of us.”
However, Carson shied away from the word “regulation” when talking about educational reform, specifically for charter schools.
“The key thing is we have to make sure any of our educational institutions are doing their job and are getting our kids well educated, and we’ll do what we can do in order to make that happen,” he said.
As for free college, Carson told the media it’s illogical.
“Free college: my position on that is a hearty laugh,” he said. “All the things that we owe versus the revenues that we have coming in and bring that up into today’s dollars, that’s the fiscal gap. It’s over $200 trillion. Our financial foundation is extremely shaky. The last thing we want to do is make it shakier by borrowing money to provide free college tuition. That absolutely makes no sense if you have any idea what kind of shape we’re in now.”
Carson said there’s no question that millennials face difficult financial times ahead, thanks to the shaky foundation the nation has provided. Student loans, which have piled a large burden on millennials, is one thing Carson said he’ll modify if elected as president.
“What’s happening is for instance our colleges, our universities, accept them (students), knowing that they can get a federal loan. The problem is those federal loans are not one or two percent. They’re at five, six, seven, eight percent,” Carson said. “And one of the things that I would be looking at is altering the way those federal loan guarantees are done so that, yes, we can still give that to a student, but the college would be responsible for the interest, not the student. That would encourage the colleges to look for other ways to finance and it would certainly curtail their rapid escalation in their prices. So we have to incentivize them to stop taking advantage of students.”
Carson’s words have resonated with youth – the next generation – who bear responsibility for the nation’s future, debt included. Bane Adkins, 17, attends high school in Chillicothe, Ohio, and drove the 50-plus minutes to attend Tuesday’s rally at Cedarville University with three of his classmates. Adkins said he supports Carson because of the unity the candidate emphasizes.
“He’s not so focused on Republican versus Democrat as much as he is on the basis of the country,” Adkins said.
For William Fouler, 17, who attended the rally with Adkins, the 2016 presidential race is important because he said he wants to begin standing up for his beliefs now, not years from now, so the nation can have the hopeful future for which Carson advocates.
“I know one day I’m going to have to be a dad, telling my kids what to do, and I want to show them, you know, this is what I stood for. And I want to set an example, ‘You don’t have to be an adult. You can start out young,'” Fouler said. “Because something beautiful that this country has is the right to go out and be free. The younger you start, the bigger, better the nation can be. And Dr. Carson’s advocating a lot for youth, and that’s why he’s in this race is for the future.”
Anna Dembowski is a senior journalism major and editor-in-chief for Cedars. She is learning to love coffee, spontaneity and Twitter. Follow her at @annabbowskers.