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Town Hall with Dennis Ross & Darren Soto

Effective Democracy – A Town Hall Meeting

On the morning of January 24, Southeastern University was privileged to host two members of the U.S. House of Represntatives. Dennis Ross (Florida, district 15) and Darren Soto (Florida, district 9) gathered with numerous SEU students, faculty and staff for a town hall meeting. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the importance of engaging in the civic process and to present ideas and viewpoints on issues that are important to students.

Civic Discourse

kent ingle

Dr. Kent Ingle, SEU President

“This is a historic event for SEU … to welcome these legislative representatives here to our campus,” said Dr. Kent Ingle, SEU President, as he opened the meeting. “We share with them a commitment to serving our community. We appreciate this opportunity to engage with our elected officials and to discuss the issues that we value.” Ingle noted that it is especially important to SEU, as a faith-based institution, to appreciate the importance of civic discourse and to see firsthand what it means to be civic-minded leaders.

In keeping with the context of the meeting, Dr. Ingle also announced the upcoming launch of an undergraduate degree in Political Science at SEU. This program will further the university’s goal in training up leaders with the potential to create a meaningful and lasting impact on their communities.

Meaningful Discussions

The meeting was moderated by Dr. Paul Linzey, chair of the Department of Humanities in SEU’s College of Arts & Media. Dr. Linzey presented questions to the representatives that were submitted by students studying in fields such as business, finance or legal studies.

The representatives answered these questions with sound facts as well as their own opinions — and made it very clear which was which. The students appreciated this approach, and found it helpful and informative. “The core issues we are discussing from year to year aren’t necessarily new,” Ross explained. “However, our understanding of the evolving needs surrounding the issues are what will make the difference.”

people at town hall

Students & faculty at the town hall meeting

Soto encouraged students to further their knowledge of the issues that affect the community and the country as a whole. “There’s a lot of power in this room; your interest in community and important issues is essential.” Soto explained that millennials now comprise the largest portion of voters, making this involvement and knowledge even more essential.

Both representatives weighed in on subjects such as DACA, border security, the recent tax reform, the upcoming census, the future of the Affordable Care Act, the impact of net neutrality and recovery efforts for areas impacted by natural disasters, such as Puerto Rico. Students also asked impromptu questions about post-Hurricane Irma relief and the preservation of national parks.

“I’m really glad I came to this,” said Morgan, a freshman at SEU who plans to major in Finance. “Hearing directly from these elected officials about topics we care about was such a great opportunity. The fact that they took the time to invest in and encourage us means a lot.”

Both representatives stayed after the meeting so that students could meet them and have additional conversations.

The feeling in the room throughout the event was hopeful, positive and purposeful. “We see so many opportunities to help, to make improvements, to make a difference,” said Dr.  Linzey. “So much more is accomplished when we have true, meaningful conversations like this.”