Sen. Specter focuses speech on education

Lee Betancourt

Two days after the midterm elections, politicians were in the headlines, on students’ minds and on campus, as Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) spoke and took questions for an hour.

Specter, who also visited La Salle and St. Joseph’s Universities, spoke about the recent election, which he called a “seismic event,” and its repercussions for the Republican Party.

However, much of his session was tailored to students, focusing on issues such as his work to increase grants and scholarships.

Specter then answered questions ranging from the relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party to his opinions on career politicians and the immigration debate.

Senior Regina DeCristofaro asked Specter about the situation in Darfur. Specter’s answer focused on the difficulty in dealing with the Sudanese government.

“I thought that his answer was very political,” DeCristofaro said. “He didn’t really answer my question. I kind of got an answer of ‘look at what I’ve done already,’ when I was looking for more of a detailed explanation of ‘this is what the U.S. is doing.'”

Another issue of foreign policy which Specter addressed was the war in Iraq, which he called a “dominant theme” in the recent election, along with the Mark Foley and Jack Abramoff scandals.

Although Specter, the longest serving senator in Pennsylvania history, does not face reelection until 2010, the transfer of power forced by this election caused him to lose his position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I admire him for coming to speak to students when there is no impending election to gain support for,” freshman Greg Leshik said. “In fact, he came right after the midterm elections.”

Even with the last election barely over, Specter talked about looking forward to the future. He called the political climate “much colder” as a result of the election.

“The ink is not dry on Tuesday’s election, but we’re already looking at the next elections,” Specter said. “But a lot will change between now and then.”

Since becoming district attorney for the city of Philadelphia at the age of 35, Specter has been heavily involved in politics and encouraged students to do the same.

“I urge you to consider running for office,” Specter said and joked, “Just don’t run for Senate – at least not soon.”

In the meantime, Specter said, “I urge you to become active politically, to choose your party and become active in party politics.”

Specter is considered a moderate Republican and urged students to remember this side of the Republican Party.

He cited a New York Times poll which showed that, among 18- and 19-year-olds, 61 percent are Democrats and only 39 percent are Republicans.

Specter also took the time to bring up stem cell research, one of the issues with which he works closely. His encouragement of research is one of the areas that separate him from his more conservative Republican counterparts.

Specter’s final message reiterated his opinion of the importance of becoming politically involved.

“If you don’t become a Republican, be an active Democrat,” Specter said. “Don’t sit on the sidelines.”