December 28 ,1999
GWEN IFILL: Next, another in our series of special emphasis discussions about the 2000 election campaign. As our regular viewers know, we've been asking a variety of individuals and groups what issues they want to hear the presidential candidates address. Terence Smith has tonight's.
TERENCE SMITH: Tonight we hear from a group of college student editors:
Jamilla Coleman from Spelman College in Atlanta; Chris Edwards from
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia; Omar Kelly from Florida A&M
University in Tallahassee; and Jennifer Kabbany from San Diego State
University in California. Welcome to you all.
JAMILLA COLEMAN, Spelman College: Well, basically I would like that candidates to say that they do want to stick to some of the basics that have already been discussed in past elections and campaigns, which is keeping abortion legal and as well health care reform. My school, Spelman College, is part of the Atlanta University Center which includes Moorehouse and Clark Atlanta University and Morris Brown College; and Bill Bradley came recently to the School of Medicine as well as his wife, Ernestine Schlant, who used to teach French at Spelman, came to represent her husband. And it's just really important for them to make themselves visible to us and to talk about issues such as health care, because I'm in my last year of school, and pretty soon it's going to be up to me to provide things such as food and shelter and health care for myself. And that's really an issue that I would like to see taken seriously and taken really into consideration by the candidates.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. Chris Edwards at Liberty University, what would you like to hear?
CHRIS EDWARDS, Liberty University: Well, Terry, we're from a very conservative campus, and basically a lot of our attention has been focused on the Republican candidates. And what we're really looking to hear is what exactly they think on "Roe Versus Wade," if they do... If they will have a litmus test for judges when they go to the Supreme Court. What are they going to do about safety in schools? Is gun control the answer? A lot more of the stuff that we're focusing on around here and a lot of the stuff that I would like to see are social issues. I think right now economy is doing very well, and so there shouldn't be a whole lot of attention on it. But as far as things like gun control, special rights, hate crimes, different things like that, that's a lot of what I'm looking to see debated about now in this point in the campaign.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. Omar Kelly of Florida A&M, what about you?
OMAR KELLY, Florida A&M University: Really I'm interested in affirmative action. Right now there's a proposition and a governor's initiative that are facing us on our next election ballot which will pretty much end affirmative action in university enrollments, in government contracts. Then also other issues that we're interested in hearing the presidential candidates talk about would be Social Security. Right now Social Security is coming out of the checks that I earn, you know, coming out of my wages. However, when I turn 65, there are no guarantees that I'll be able to receive that money back. And also other topics... I'm interested in some of the topics that some of the other editors brought up, but one that I'm especially interested in is Internet regulations. What are some of their ideas and some of the plans that can be implemented, or, you know, are they going to take a hands-off approach?
TERENCE SMITH: Jennifer Kabbany out in San Diego, what's on your agenda?
JENNIFER KABBANY, San Diego State University: My agenda first and foremost is foreign affairs. Basically I would like to hear what the president-elect's stand on China, on North Korea's nuclear proliferation, on Russia and their little civil war, on Iraq, on Europe, on the World Trade Organization. There's a lot of issues surrounding foreign policy right now, and I think those need to be addressed right away.
TERENCE SMITH: Are your hearing any of those, Jennifer, in the early conversations?
JENNIFER KABBANY: You know, not really. I mean, basically I think I just read somewhere that McCain is going to give money towards our military readiness, and that's part of it, but where they stand on China, and North Korea, and Russia, and Iraq, I haven't heard a lot about.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. And Jamila, let me come back to you on some of the points that you raised. You said that Senator Bradley and his wife were there.
JAMILLA COLEMAN: Yes.
TERENCE SMITH: Did they raise some of these issues? Did you feel that you were getting some genuine give and take?
JAMES SCHLESINGER: He did go into depth about health care reform, and why that is so important to me, as I stated before, I'm going to be on my own soon. But also he has a holistic approach to health care, which I believe will affect everybody. If a person does not feel well, or if their children do not feel well, they are less likely to come into work, or they're likely to come into work and not do the best job that I could. I just believe that health affects every aspect of our lives.
TERENCE SMITH: Chris Edwards, you mentioned a number of issues there-- gun control, etc. Why did you pick those out? What is it that you want to hear about one or two of those?
CHRIS EDWARDS: Basically we're looking... And I'm specifically looking to hear a lot from George W. Bush. We're looking a lot at the Republican side of the campaign and Governor Bush has talked a lot about compassionate conservatism and different things like that, and a lot of the issues on the Republican side seem to me to be more of the social issues. So we're just really waiting for the sign they're really starting talking about what they're specifically going to do about different plans. With the recent shooting in Oklahoma, a lot of the debate will come to the forefront about gun control and safety in schools. A lot of folks have gone to the zero tolerance policies where students are... Basically, if they say little at all about... Derogatory or negative, schools are taking a hard-line approach toward them, and some of that may be unfair. And as the debate keeps coming up, obviously the violence in schools hasn't stopped in light of the recent shooting. So I think that's one of the more important issues that's going to face everyone around the country is the safety of their kids in school.
TERENCE SMITH: Mm-hmm. Omar Kelly, you mentioned affirmative action. That's a notion that's under assault all around this country. What is it that you want to hear the candidates spell out?
OMAR KELLY: I'd really like to hear the candidates spell out their individual stance on affirmative action. I know George Bush's stance on affirmative action. He's... You know, he's put in a governor's initiative to end affirmative action in Texas, I believe. And his brother here, who's our governor, has done the same -- Pretty much ending affirmative action on the university level and in government contracts, and I want to know if this is going to be a course of action for all of the United States. Pretty much they've hit some of the biggest states-- California, Texas and Florida-- and I want to see if the same thing is going to be done throughout the U.S. And I basically feel as if I can't vote for a president who will make my journey a lot harder towards success.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. Jennifer Kabbany, the election is still... Whatever it is, 11 months away, has this campaign caught the attention of you and people on campus so far?
JENNIFER KABBANY: Well, certainly it's caught my attention. I care a lot about it. But as far as my fellow students, unfortunately I don't get the impression that they're thinking about it at all.
TERENCE SMITH: Well, the polls suggest that much of the public is not really tuned in, but is... Let me ask you why, if that's the case, among the student body. Is it an apathetic attitude towards politics? Is it a lack of a central issue in the campaign that galvanizes people? What do you think it is?
JENNIFER KABBANY: I think it's, you know, our lazy generation. And, I mean, we grow up, we watch TV, we don't read newspapers anymore, and we're just disconnected from what's going on in Washington and what's going on around the world, which is why foreign policy is so important to me. It's disheartening. I don't think one issue is going to bring college students to the table. I think we need an awakening in this country, mass level at all campuses about what is going on and we need to get involved.
TERENCE SMITH: Jamila Coleman, what about the level of interest at Spelman? Is there any discussion of it? Do people talk about it?
JAMILLA COLEMAN: Perhaps in the sphere of the classroom it is discussed, when a student is reminded of it by the curriculum or the teacher brings it up. I wouldn't say there's indifference, but I would say that we won't really start getting excited until the time gets closer and closer. We do have our voter registration drive, the closer that the election gets, but overall I wouldn't call it indifference, I would just call it general ignorance. Not in a negative light, but I think it's also the politicians' responsibility if they do really want to be elected to come and see us. Unfortunately, for better or for worse, not all of us do open a newspaper, but there are certain ways to reach people and our generation is particularly the television generation and the Internet generation. And MTV, for better or for worse, is a very good vehicle for politicians to promote themselves to the younger generation.
TERENCE SMITH: And I suppose for many it's a first presidential vote. Is it for you?
JAMILLA COLEMAN: Yes, it is.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. Chris Edwards, you mentioned that there are a lot of Republicans, that it's essentially a conservative campus. Is it going to be an active campus in your expectation?
CHRIS EDWARDS: I think so. More toward when the actual election starts to come up. It was pretty active in the fall here when the conservatives took over Virginia and the control of the legislature there, and so everybody did a lot of activism then, a lot of campaign drops a and lot of talk. And I think you'll see a lot here at Liberty. A lot of the people will kind of pick somebody that they're kind of going for at the start of the fall semester. But unfortunately for that, like everybody else has been saying, a lot of the issues have been discussed and a lot of the primaries have taken place long before that, and so a lot of kids on campus aren't really going to get involved and vote in their primaries back at home or really pay attention to a lot of the issues until the very crucial time right before the election. After that, a lot of times what you're going to get is the parties' platforms from either side and not really what the candidates would really say right now when they're battling amongst each other for nominations. So I think we'll be pretty active, but it's hard telling right now. Everything's kind of quiet and slow and we're just kind of waiting. Maybe some of them will come to campus. We haven't had anybody yet, so if we did, I think you'd see the excitement level pick up a little bit.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. Omar Kelly, what's the story at Florida A&M?
OMAR KELLY: I really disagree with what one of our panelists said where she was talking about our generation, how we're disassociated from politics because we, you know, we're an uninformed society. I think right now our generation is pretty much more informed in this society that it's perceived of us. We've got television, we've got radio, we've got the Internet, we know all the candidates. We know all the major players. I think the problem with our society is that we're really disheartened by the breed of candidates that are presented in front of us. Me personally, I don't respect, or I won't vote for a career politician. I believe that the best way to... The best kind of politicians are made by those who aren't in this for a career, they're made by those who want to make a difference in their society.
TERENCE SMITH: Jennifer Kabbany, I think that was your comment about your generation. We'll give you the final word.
JENNIFER KABBANY: Okay, thank you. No, I stand by my statement. Regardless of the amount of information, people aren't really looking into it and if they do flick the TV on and they do happen to watch a news program, most of it is a bunch of, you know, liberal junk. So I don't really think they're getting the information that they need, but even if they do, if they pick up the Internet, that's not going to provide the information they need as well. And so I stand by the statement that the students, at least on my campus, don't really even know who's running right now.
TERENCE SMITH: All right. Well, perhaps they'll catch it as it goes along. Thank you all very much.
GWEN IFILL: A reminder that you can participate in our agenda 2000 project by visiting our Web site at pbs.org/newshour, and also by regular mail to: The NewsHour, 3620 South 27th Street, Arlington, Virginia, 22206.