Student body president Omar Khan did what he said he wanted to do by bringing the political process to the students Wednesday night. The first presidential forum this year at USF attracted more than 400 people to the Special Events Center to hear Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich speak.
Kucinich, who got a standing ovation when he took the stage, even attracted the student organization Students for Bush. Four students in that organization took seats in the front row and held “Bush/Cheney ’04” signs, during the one-hour question and answer session. One of the students was chairwoman Danielle Higginbotham.
“As Republicans on campus, we felt it was our duty to go and represent our beliefs,” Higginbotham said.
Kucinich said he wants to make the Democratic Party a viable second party and encourage democratic discussion.
Before questions were open to the audience, Khan asked Kucinich to name one initiative that President George W. Bush has spearheaded and that he agrees with. Kucinich stood on stage and looked puzzled. The question was one of two, which Khan asked as pre-selected questions.
“I really am thinking,” Kucinich said before moving on to the next question.
Kucinich answered various questions that ranged from education, to Osama bin Laden to Ralph Nader, along with other issues in the 2004 election.
Kucinich said there is no money for education, and students are faced everyday with dilemmas such as how they are going to pay for college with continuing tuition increases.
“It’s disgusting that there is no money for education,” Kucinich said. “Our obligation is to make sure we have an educated society.”
Kucinich proposed using the money from Bush’s tax cut to pay for the approximately 12 million college students’ education and give students a free education.
One student began the questions by asking Kucinich about Osama bin Laden and when the United States was going to find him and capture him.
“We are trying to find him,” Kucinich said. “But I do know that we are going to Mars. But they should find him and ask him some questions.”
When Kucinich answered another question about how he feels about Nader entering the presidential race, he said that the election was still far from over and that issues still need to be stated.
“The election is eight months away. What is the hurry?” he said. “(The campaigning) is like the TV show Survivor, but you have to remove yourself from the island. And let me tell you, trees will be gone off the island before I do.”
During Kucinich’s tenure as an Ohio Congressman, his stance on abortion, changed, he said.
“I believe we need to work to lessen the amount of abortions, and the way to do that is through sex education and birth control,” he said. “But at the same time, women’s rights are affected when trying to be equal, and they can’t be equal without choices.”
Another issue that is slowly moving into the election campaign forefront is Bush’s support on a new constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. Kucinich said America works best when the people have freedom, and by proposing such an amendment, it would be working against the freedom the country stands for.
“People should be accepted, not judged, and when you have a leader that judges, it is not appropriate and it doesn’t help with the growth of the country,” he said. “We have a poison gas of bigotry … and we need to make sure we don’t have anyone breathe it in.”
Kucinich said it is important for people, including students to stand up and speak out what they know about the Bush administration.
“We know why he took us into Iraq; it was about oil. We know why he passed a tax cut; it was about the rich. We know. We know, and we must trust thyself,” he said. “Young people are needed more than ever to challenge the government. We need you to stand up and hold protests, sit-ins. We need your talents. We need you.”
Khan said after not having Senators John Kerry or John Edwards attend the forum, he was pleased with the turnout, especially after the Super Tuesday primary took place.