Clad in jeans and a dress shirt, Chris Heinz brought an informal, down-to-earth feel to a debate party in Mitten Hall Wednesday night. About 70 students from campus organizations watched the debate on a big-screen TV with the stepson of presidential candidate John Kerry.
Heinz had the option to spend the night in Ohio, watching his stepfather debate with President Bush, but he chose watching the debate with Temple students.
“The rest of my family is there, but it was either go there and watch, or come here and work for the day, and go to four schools and get students fired up to help,” Heinz said.
Heinz’s appearance at the debate party wasn’t initially planned.
“It was sort of a last-minute arrangement. It kind of caught me by surprise,” said Assaf Holtzman, president of College Democrats. “The focus of this party is to get visibility, to get students all psyched up to go to vote… vote Kerry obviously.”
As the debate unfolded, students made comments about the candidates. Heinz, who sat among the students on a couch, watched intently and nodded in agreement while his stepfather debated.
“What I ask students is which one of these two guys is the peacemaker. The answer is pretty clear,” said Heinz, who describes Kerry as “calm, strong, full of integrity and wise.”
Heinz described the reason for his Philadelphia visit. “Temple is a place in the middle of Philadelphia. Philadelphia is what under-writes democrats’ effort from Pa., one of the three or four states that create the foundation for progressive politics in this country,” he said.
Heinz said Pennsylvania, like Ohio, is where the working people are, so he feels like he is “in the heart of it [the worker’s issues].”
Students should care about the election, according to Heinz, because the issues are relevant to them. “They [students] should care in the top line because they have the right to vote,” he said. “College tuition’s up 35 percent nationally, that’s a huge issue on campuses; and jobs that aren’t paying as well, and they aren’t as available as they have been for the last 70 years in America.”
Attorney Sharif Street, son of Mayor John Street, said Heinz’s visit helps energize students, particularly the issues Temple students face. “I think a lot of Temple students care about issues of choice, a lot care about the environment….students want to know if we’re going to have an economy that’s going to create jobs so that they could repay student loans to go here [Temple]. Young people have more to lose because we have more life to live.”
Students across the nation have expressed concern about the re-installation of the “d-word” – the draft. But Heinz said Kerry has a plan to avoid the implementation of a draft, and that begins with the solving the war in Iraq.
“We’ve laid out a four-point plan for our broad solution in Iraq – how to bring people home by end of first term,” said Heinz.
He said that plan would include: holding an international summit “to bring the world together and move forward,” allowing countries that weren’t part of the coalition to invest in Iraq, and “having real, palatable and immediate things that benefit the lives of Iraqis and those in Iraq.”
Heinz also said the campaign supports a fresh start. “What we need there now is new credibility with not just the borders of Iraq, but with the rest of the international community.”
Jessica White, president of Feminist Majority Leadership Action, said the Kerry campaign’s intention to meet with smaller groups made an impact.
“We felt part of something greater,” she said.