U.S. Senator Susan Collins talks to students about current political climate
Collins said young millennials need to get involved in politics
U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine encouraged AU students to get involved in politics and public service at an event hosted by the Kennedy Political Union and AU College Republicans on Sept. 8.
In her opening address, Collins, the most senior Republican woman in the Senate, spoke about the need for leaders to work across party lines and challenged young people to lead the way in improving the nation’s political climate, in which she said that extreme voices are being heard and views in the middle are being lost.
“In Washington, those of us that represent the people of this great nation must put progress over partisanship, statesmanship over stridency, and compromise over conflict,” Collins said in her speech. “That would produce a very different legislative climate, one in which the objective is to solve problems, not just to score political points for the next election.”
Collins stressed the importance of compromise in Congress throughout her speech, especially on the issue of gun control, an area she has been deeply involved in. She spoke about how her bipartisan proposal calling for those on the federal “no-fly” list to be prohibited from purchasing firearms recently fell short of the 60 votes that were required for it to pass in the Senate but won majority support.
“Each mass killing seems like a recurring nightmare and each failure by Congress to address this crisis is a replay of the hyper partisanship that prevents progress,” Collins said.
In an interview with The Eagle, Collins said concerned citizens can play a major role in bettering today’s political landscape and encouraged students dissatisfied with the direction of the country to step into politics instead of simply watching.
“People need to understand that they are part of the solution, and that if they stand on the sidelines and do not get involved, nothing’s going to change,” Collins said.
Collins has been vocal about her dislike of Republican nominee Donald Trump, who she said she will not be voting for in the upcoming election, and told The Eagle that she will most likely be writing in a name on the ballot.
“I’m not happy with our choices for this election in a country this large,” Collins said. “I would have hoped that we would have produced better candidates and I say that, despite the fact that I worked very well with Hillary Clinton when she was my colleague in the Senate, clearly she has some serious flaws that have caused many Americans to be dissatisfied with her being the candidate for the Democratic Party.”
Collins also discussed with The Eagle how the Republican Party can unify at this moment even if not all Republicans are on the same page when it comes to the presidential election.
“It is possible for the Republican Party to unify in the goal of keeping the Senate and the House in Republican hands, and regardless of who our next president is, I think it is important to have a Republican Congress and that does bring us together,” she told The Eagle.
On the future of the Republican Party, Collins said during the interview that the GOP needs to work on creating a more accepting environment.
“We need to be a more inclusive party that welcomes everybody and that shows there is a place for everyone,” Collins said. “That has always been my philosophy and that allows us to win.”
During the question and answer portion of the event, which was moderated by Jennifer Lawless, a professor in SPA and the director of the Women & Politics Institute, Collins touched upon the gender gap in Congress, which has a far higher percentage of men than women. Collins said that having strong female role models, like former senator and representative from Maine Margaret Chase Smith, as well as her own mother, influenced her career decisions. More women who want to enter politics need to believe in themselves and leave behind any self-doubt, Collins said.
“We women at times are our own worst enemy when it comes to running for office because we just don’t have enough confidence in our ability,” Collins said.
Collins’ advice for students interested in a career in politics is to start by working on a campaign or applying for an internship on Capitol Hill.
“Our country is in your hands and it is going to be up to your generation to straighten the problems caused by my generation and I’m counting on you to do it,” Collins said. “But I hope that you will get involved. There is nothing like the feeling like helping to write a law that rights a wrong.”