Student opinions clash at NAACP political debate
Amid increasingly incendiary Republican debates in the race to choose the next presidential candidate, UH students made a stand to argue their own beliefs on issues facing American voters Tuesday in the University Center Tejas room.
Dubbed “Obama vs. Perry,” the event, hosted by the nonpartisan UH NAACP, invited a four-person panel of students and alumni to engage the audience of about 40 and discuss issues such as immigration reform, education and unemployment.
“We just hope people understand the importance of being politically active,” said UH NAACP President Lindsay Gary. “We wanted to bring them both sides of the issues.”
Political Action Chair Neimon James moderated the debate, asking questions posed by students on Twitter.
When asked if Obama’s school renovation proposal will improve student performance, panelist Raul Lopez invoked a problem within the University as reference.
“Our schools have not been renovated for a long time,” Lopez said. “How are children supposed to believe that education is important when school walls are falling apart?
“Even at UH students can attest to that. Look at the basketball program; the stadium is being held together by tape.”
Many of the questions presented to the panel revolved around statements and initiatives proposed by Gov. Rick Perry, who until recently, led fellow potential republican candidates in the polls.
Most of the panel did not believe that Perry was a powerful enough candidate to effectively challenge Obama for the presidency, but the governor was given praise for his tact involved in his meteoric rise to the front of the Republican polls.
“The man is a genius politically,” Lopez said.
When asked about Perry’s recent statement in which he called conservative principles “sensible” and “compassionate,” panelist Cynthia Medina had strong feelings.
“At the beginning of the session there were over 70 anti-immigration/Latino bills, I really wouldn’t call that compassionate,” Medina said, referring to the Voter ID bill as an example. “Instead of trying to figure out how to balance the budget or fund education that was (Perry’s) number one bill.”
Lone conservative panelist Eno Crabtree provided an alternate viewpoint, clashing with panelist and audience members alike in questions regarding the government’s role in the private sector and conservative principles.
A question concerning whether or not government is better qualified to provide for the needs of the public than the private sector, a student in the audience argued in Washington’s favor.
“Staying within the guidelines of the Constitution, the government is there to provide for its people,” the student said. “To say that a business can take care of the people is literally walking blindly into traffic; to simply expect that businesses care about the people is frankly dumb.”
Crabtree quickly fired back at the student’s passionate statement.
“To say that businesses don’t care about people, that’s one of the most asinine, completely illogical things I’ve ever heard,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree also received backlash from panelist Kaine Hampton and audience members alike for several controversial statements made during the debate, such as “we are past racial lines” in a monologue in which he invoked the teachings of Booker T. Washington.
Crabtree said despite the sometimes heated debate the panelists were actually good friends.
“It’s very important to have this candid discussion,” the political science senior said. “It’s good for us to engage in this debate.”
The NAACP has hosted several debates in the past, and plans to hold another discussion revolving around the justice system in two weeks.
James ended the event with a heartfelt speech aimed at encouraging the audience to be informed and look past color lines, echoing Newt Gingrich’s stance that jobs are created by the public and not the federal system.
“Ladies and gentlemen, when you’re thinking about your president, don’t just look at color anymore,” James said. “Look at your long term future and your student costs and put those things together.
“If you have a president who’s going to create more jobs by creating more debt, in my opinion that’s not a reasonable solution. Look at each candidate objectively. Your real tool to hold these politicians accountable is to vote, so vote in every single election.”