Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke addressed students, staff and faculty at a town hall in Cohen Auditorium on Thursday night, during which students were able to question O’Rourke. The event was hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.
During the talk, O’Rourke repeatedly stressed the need for stricter gun laws, citing the rise in mass shootings around the country, specifically in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. O’Rourke told the crowd that the gunman later told the police he came to that town with the intent to “kill Mexicans.”
“That is the cost and the consequence of Donald Trump. That is the cost and the consequence of the gun laws or lack thereof in this country,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke stressed that gun violence is caused by people and that potential solutions lay in policies like background checks and the government purchasing all AK-47s and AR-15s.
The event was moderated by Dean of Tisch College Alan Solomont, who questioned O’Rourke about how to enhance the role of young people in the political process. In response, O’Rourke shared his support for policies geared toward increasing voter turnout, such as automatic voter registration when a person turns 18, same day registration and a new voting rights act.
The town hall marked O’Rourke’s first public appearance in Massachusetts since announcing his bid for the presidency.
“We were thrilled to [start] off Tisch College’s Presidential Town Hall series with Beto O’Rourke and feel proud that Tufts University was his first Massachusetts event since launching his campaign,” Program Administrator at Tisch College Jessica Byrnes told the Daily in an email.
Byrnes added that she hoped the event both informed voters of critical issues and platforms in the 2020 elections and created more excitement surrounding Tisch College’s town hall events in the future.
“We look forward to hosting more candidates—from both sides of the aisle—in the coming months,” Byrnes said.
Tisch College’s Director of Communications, Strategy, & Planning Jen McAndrew stated that O’Rourke’s town hall is only one of several events it hopes to host this semester that allow students to interact with political and civic issues.
“In addition to seeking a diverse group of leaders from all areas of civic and public life, we prioritize events that allow for direct engagement, by students, with our speakers,” McAndrew said in an email. “This week we were proud to kick off the semester with two events that exemplified that commitment: Beto O’Rourke’s Town Hall, and our conversation with Congressman Will Hurd.”
McAndrew commented in particular on students’ high level of interest at both events.
“In both instances, most of the time was devoted to students’ questions, and we saw Tufts students continue to engage on challenging and interesting topics–from climate change to healthcare to data security. We look forward to keeping this going throughout the semester!” McAndrew said
O’Rourke emphasized the need for an improved and quicker immigration system and discussed how much non-citizen immigrants strengthen the American economy.
“Imagine how much more they could do as legal residents, as U.S. citizens,” O’Rourke said.
Students had the opportunity to ask questions during the event, the topics of which included the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, federal legislation to protect internet privacy, American foreign policy, the Medicare for America health plan that O’Rourke has endorsed and foreign interference in elections.
O’Rourke shared his support for federal legislation to enhance privacy on the internet.
“Our likes and dislikes are all traded, sometimes sold without our knowledge or content. I see these platforms more akin to a publisher than a utility. I would change the way that they are treated,” O’Rourke told the audience.
He also cited climate change as one of the most urgent world crises and asserted that the U.S. needs to work with every country to leverage against climate change.
O’Rourke also acknowledged the seriousness of foreign interference, including phishing and cyber attacks.
“I’m under no illusion about the dangers we face in this country and in political campaigns in particular,” O’Rourke said. “It does not help when you have a president who still will not acknowledge that attack took place… We really need a commander-in-chief who is aware of the scope and severity of this problem.”