Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, visits University

By Michael Semaca

Jill Stein, the Green Party’s leading candidate for the 2016 presidential election, spoke at the University on Wednesday night, promoting her party’s political values.JT

Stein, the only presidential candidate to visit the University this election cycle, has been involved in green politics for more than fifteen years. She ran for many offices in her home state of Massachusetts, and was the Green Party’s nominee in the 2012 presidential election.JT She said she believes is that massive changes need to be made to America to make the world a better place.

“We need really deep systemic change.” Stein said. “And a different way forward based on democracy, justice, and human rights, and a different kind of world that puts people, planet and peace over profit, instead of profit over everything else.”

Stein’s speech primarily focused on the issue of student loan debt. She pointed out that 43 million Americans are tied down by their student loans; in order to pay them off, many graduates need to work longer hours, giving them less time to pay attention to politics. Stein said it was crucial for these people to get out and vote in 2016.

Stein stressed that impact 43 million people voting to “check the green box and cancel debt” would make.

“That’s enough people to actually take over the election and win it,” she said. “People in student debt actually have the numbers to take over this election.”

In addition to easing student debt, Stein spoke about one of the core values of the Green Party: stopping climate change. She highlighted her campaign’s idea for a “Green New Deal,” which she said would create 20 million living wage jobs to put the country on a path toward a clean energy future.

“We’re calling for this in real time so that, in the time that it needs to be done, by 2030, fifteen years from now we have 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We can do that,” Stein said.

She said the party’s plans could revive the economy, turn the tide on climate change and make the war for oil obsolete.

Stein said Democrat and Republican politicians will not make these changes because they are “funded by the predatory banks and the fossil fuel giants and the war profiteers.”

To achieve change, Stein urged voters to get involved and make their voices heard in the political process.

“This is not about sitting back and waiting 10 or 20 years for change to be built up,” she said. “We really need profound, substantive, transformative change, and remember we have the numbers to make it happen,” she said. “And the power to create that world, it’s not just in our hopes, like some campaigns have told us, it’s not just in our dreams, it’s right here, right now, it’s in our hands, let’s make it happen.”

The event was organized by the Prairie Greens, a part of the Illinois Green Party that operates in the central Illinois area. The organization has a campus presence that was started by Michael Bay a year ago, and is focused on bringing various green organizations together.

“We’ve tried to unify what these students do because all their goals are united. They’re all green values,” Bay said.

Bay, originally from Germany, started the University branch of Prairie Greens because he was incredibly surprised at students’ lack of involvement in politics compared to his home country.

“When I came here to the states, I was shocked by the conditions that this country and campus (were) in,” Bay said. “Basically nobody cares about politics or getting involved and standing up for his or her voice.”

Bay believes that the Green Party can have a big impact on American politics due to their progressive ideas, but acknowledged that it will be hard for the Green Party to challenge the establishment.

Bay said the U.S. will need to do “tremendous rethinking.”

“What I realized as a German is that people are a lot more focused on promoting their own careers, their own wealth and themselves rather than stepping in for the collective, for the societal good,” he said. “In a country where socialism is stigmatized, and where you’re looked down upon if you don’t take a career with money as a primary goal, it’s going to be hardly possible for a greater movement to take place.”

Many students unaffiliated with the Green Party attended the event as well, including senior Jasmine Kirby. Kirby has always been interested in liberal politics, but has never identified herself as a member of the Green Party.

“(The speech) was great, and it was very interesting. I’m not in the Green Party but I liked a lot of the ideas and it seemed very applicable,” Kirby said.

She said the event made her think more about Stein as a potential presidential candidate.

“She’s running as an independent and is trying to get more people involved in the political process which is great.”?

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