Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke visited Columbia yesterday afternoon to host an open discussion with Columbia College students. Editor in Chief and Bwog’s resident Texas aficionado Jenny Zhu brings you a report of the discussion and a pic she snapped with the congressman.
Under the dome of Low, sparks flew early Monday afternoon as Beto O’Rourke fielded questions from Columbia College students, alumni, and community members, in an event aptly titled “A Conversation with Beto O’Rourke.”
O’Rourke began the event by giving students insight into his colorful background as a Columbia student in the 90’s. While we at Bwog have made our own speculations of what Beto was like during his time at Columbia, O’Rourke primarily discussed his memories serving as co-captain of the heavyweight crew team, traveling to 127th street to drag rowing equipment back down to campus and subsequently waiting in the team van for his teammates to wake up and go to practice.
As he finished up his introduction, O’Rourke expressed his gratitude for his English education at Columbia, and in particular thanked not only his professors but also his fellow students, for teaching him the importance of telling a story.
O’Rourke then opened the floor up to questions from the audience. Initial questions centered on the role of emotion in politics and recent proposals for a border wall by the Trump administration.
In response, the former Texan congressman turned to his hometown of El Paso, where he referenced the fact that inbound U.S. migration was at a relative low, with many Mexican citizens moving out of the United States rather than moving in. He talked about his own first date with his wife, Amy, getting margaritas at a restaurant across the border, and how El Paso residents were building bridges rather than walls to Mexico.
All of this evidence, O’Rourke argued, pointed against the necessity of a border wall. “It’s fucking ludicrous,” O’Rourke said.
As the discussion continued, students also asked about how social media would be utilized by future politicians, and how the Democratic Party should structure its efforts to rally support in the 2020 presidential election, in context of the internal debate over whether Democrats should pander to the center or stand left.
O’Rourke cited his experiences on his 2018 campaign trail, as he drove through and spoke to members of each county in Texas, no matter how small or how “red” the location was. In fact, O’Rourke expressed his skepticism that certain counties were irrevocably red, and emphasized the necessity to reach out to all American citizens and have difficult discussions with them, in order to move forward productively and create the necessary political change.
Regarding the ongoing Democratic debate, O’Rourke added, “I hate being afraid of your own shadow, of calculating the middle, the mean, the path that will work in political terms,” O’Rourke added. The former congressman advocated for candidates to stand staunchly by the issues they were passionate about, rather than map out a calculated political stratagem.
“Maybe that makes senses in business [or] technology. Politics, at least, speaking for myself, I want to be inspired. I want to be a part of a team. I want to be a member of something far greater than myself, or any one of us. And I don’t know that’s going to be safe, or it’s going to be easy,” O’Rourke said.
Additional discussion centered around climate change – which O’Rourke emphasized as one of the primary issues facing the world today, the use of social media, and the role of names in the political field.
As the event ran overtime, O’Rourke thanked the audience members for showing up. “In some ways, [I] felt just as intimidated showing up today as I did in September of 1991, when I was a freshman. All of these incredibly bright people and yet, I feel welcomed, I feel hopeful, [and] I feel inspired,” O’Rourke said.