by SOPHIA SAKELLARIOU, ALEXA SCHMIDT & SAMANTHA WALLA, Contributor & Asst. Editors
The Government and Politics Club sponsored an informational lecture in Kelly Commons on Thursday Feb. 22, where four panelists attempted to answer the question “why I am a [insert political party]”. The event was organized by Ryan Kwiecinski, president of the Government and Politics Club.
“I started planning this event back in November after our club hosted tables registering students to vote and we learned that many students were not aware of what each political party stood for,” said Kwiecinski. “I decided I wanted to host this and have all the speakers together on one day instead of on different days, because otherwise students would only attend the one that stood with their beliefs.”
At the event the club handed out pamphlets with essential information regarding political parties and copies of the U.S. Constitution. The event started with a short introduction from Kwiecinski and then progressed to the representatives recounting their personal political journey.
The first speaker was Republican Party representative, Brian Maher, a three-term mayor of Walden, N.Y.
In 2009, Maher set the record for youngest mayor elected in New York State (23).
Maher mentioned that he had no political upbringing but got involved with lobbying and non-profit work at a young age. Through these efforts he was inspired to be a leader of his party.
The Republican attributed his affiliation towards his upbringing. His family attended church every Sunday and had a conservative outlook on life.
Maher also explained that he doesn’t believe in a party of no government, but good government when necessary.
“As much as you have to learn, you can be leaders now,” Maher said, encouraging the students in attendance to get involved in their community.
The next speaker of the session was the Libertarian Party representative, Devin Balkind, a New York City native who serves as the chair of the Brooklyn Libertarian Party.
Balkind explained that the Libertarian party is America’s third largest party with half a million members nationally.
“The Libertarian Party’s beliefs center around a single principle, the NAP, or non-aggression principle. We are a party trying to apply anarchist principles in practical means to reduce the amount of force in society all the time. We are new and radical enough to apply this vision,” said Balkan.
Gustavo Rivera, a Democratic New York state senator, spoke next.
“I’m a Democrat because the Democratic party is the party that most closely resembles what my values are. I believe in the idea that the state has a responsibility to the people because we can and should make people’s lives easier,” Rivera said.
Rivera cited his time in academia as a motivator to become involved in politics.
“When I started listening to the stories of my students I realized that my life was defined by privilege,” said Rivera. “I can call myself progressive, but I am not scared of the word liberal. Let’s be clear,” said Rivera.
Juan Antigua, the Working Families Party representative, was the last speaker.
Bronx born and raised, Antigua entered politics to make change.
“The reason why I joined [is] because I was told no, that I couldn’t do something. And I was like, I’m going to do it. So I became a member, and learned how to organize campaigns,” he said.
The four politicians all had very different origin stories, but they all craved change and progress.
After each representative spoke they opened the floor up to questions from attendees. The audience led the discussion topics and the representatives did their best to answer questions regarding gun control, anarchism and advice for those who are interested in getting more involved in politics.
Despite their opposing ideologies, the politicians all shared a desire to educate the attendees.
“I’m a Democrat because both of my parents are, but this lecture definitely opened my eyes to different opinions,” freshman Tara Naraghi said.