By Nina Goldman, February 28, 2012
“The Tufts Democrats on Saturday hosted the College Democrats of Massachusetts (CDM) annual Winter Summit for the second consecutive year.
The summit included panels, networking opportunities and a breakfast session, where selected students from schools that placed well in the organization’s Registration Rumble competition heard from Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.
The students who attended the breakfast session also received monetary prizes that rewarded their success in registering voters and volunteering for political causes from Chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party John Walsh.
Ten students from the Tufts Democrats accepted the group’s $100 award for registering the most voters.
Walsh spoke encouragingly of the group’s and others’ efforts toward getting Democrats to vote on Election Day.
“Some of you have already started doing this work, and I’m really, really excited about it,” he said. “You spend an amount of energy that I really appreciate.”
Coakley similarly congratulated the students gathered from Tufts, Smith College, Boston College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She said it was up to passionate young people like them to fix the mistakes made by her generation.
“A funny thing happened to my generation on their way to changing the world … a lot of them discovered Wall Street,” Coakley said. “Stay engaged. Hold us accountable.”
Coakley, who ran against Senator Scott Brown (R−Mass.) in the U.S. Senate special election in Massachusetts in 2010, discussed issues that both she and the students care deeply about, most notably the rising costs and sinking quality of primary and higher education.
“How do we fund and maintain excellence in our schools?” she asked. “When we don’t have an educated public … the country loses very badly.”
Another major issue she discussed was the economic downturn. When Coakley asked the students if any of them were unsure of their future job prospects, many raised their hands.
“You all need to know the history about what happened in this foreclosure crisis,” she told them. “They have destroyed what is the middle class, stable economy.”
Coakley attributed much of this financial difficulty to unfair policies that hurt the majority of Americans.
“Nobody gets a free ride, but it’s about making it fair,” she said. “The game is rigged.”
She cited court decisions such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) — where the Supreme Court ruled that, under the First Amendment, the government is prohibited from limiting the amount corporations and unions can spend toward political causes — as examples of encouraging bad policy.
“There’s been no single more corrupting [factor],” Coakley said. “In the end it will come back to haunt everybody.”
Facing the issues head−on is the best way to achieve solutions to fundamental problems, she said. Coakley cited her work to declare the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in Massachusetts as an example of what can be done to make change. But she warned that such successes were not enough to consider the issue resolved.
“Do not take any of these hard−won battles for granted,” she said, noting that when she was the students’ age, she and her peers considered contraception — the subject of frequent debate in this year’s elections — a done deal and a non−issue.
“These are all challenges for your generation,” she said.
Walsh encouraged the gathered students to step up to the challenges that Coakley described. He especially re−emphasized one of the key points of his Jan. 31 speech to the Tufts Democrats: more young women need to follow Coakley’s lead and run for office.
“We need more women in elected office … The numbers are just not reflective of our community,” he said. “Bigwig people don’t ask women to run for office, so I’m asking you.”
Some students in attendance took his directive and Coakley’s example to heart, including Smith College freshman Rosamond Hayden.
“I’m sort of new to all of this, and I was really impressed,” Hayden told the Daily. “It’s sort of intimidating to think about, but I think that was his message, that you have to do things that are intimidating.”
The talks were followed by the main portion of the CDM Winter Summit, where all Tufts students, as well as students from across the state, were invited to panels featuring people working for Massachusetts politicians, including Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Deval Patrick. The panels discussed various jobs available for the politically inclined, from consulting to fieldwork.
“Students can figure out what jobs might be out there for them,” CDM President Kate Moore, a senior at Smith College, told the Daily.
Taylor Barnard, the president of Tufts Democrats and CDM’s programs director, told the Daily before the summit that it would be an opportunity to learn about work in politics and to make important connections to get involved.
“I’m most excited for the opportunity to get to know all the other college Democrats and network,” Barnard, a sophomore, said. “People have actually walked away from this with internships.”
Barnard said that politicians and political activists are happy to spend their Saturdays talking to college students because those students can play an important role in campaigning and getting voters excited.
“College students are the most eager and have the most time,” he said.