U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. had some words of advice for students at Franklin & Marshall College when he spoke on campus May 2.
“As best you can, even if you’re not a government major, consider a career in service or at least provide service as a volunteer,” Casey said. “We need you badly. I think if you have the benefit of a great education at F&M, you can contribute.”
In a visit sponsored by F&M’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs, Department of Government and New College House, Casey gave a candid talk on topics ranging from early childhood education to the partisan split on Capitol Hill. Dozens of F&M students took a break during finals week to attend the event, joining members of the faculty and professional staff in the Great Room of New College House to hear from and meet the senator.
A graduate of Holy Cross who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Casey mentioned that he applied to—and was accepted by—Franklin & Marshall during his college-decision process. “I was thinking about playing basketball if I came to F&M,” Casey said. “I wonder how different my life would be if I came to F&M and played basketball.”
The senator delivered brief remarks after being introduced by G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs and the Franklin & Marshall College Poll. Casey spoke about the difficult economy in Pennsylvania and around the country, highlighting his belief in investing in early childhood education and the skills of workers.
During a question-and-answer session after his remarks, F&M student Andre Douglas ’15 asked Casey about legislation on bullying in schools. Casey introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act in 2011.
“I thought Sen. Casey’s visit was very informative,” Douglas said after the event. “He’s really involved in issues important to me. I know he’s working hard on the economy right now, but I hope he’s able to make progress on the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act.”
F&M student Andy Geltman ’12 also enjoyed Casey’s visit.
“It was awesome that a senator came to a small liberal arts college,” said Geltman, a government major. “He was incredibly candid. I’ve seen other politicians talk, but not many who were so candid.”
A candid moment came when Casey discussed recent polls showing Americans’ approval rating of the U.S. Legislature stood at 9 percent. “We have our challenges,” Casey acknowledged. He urged leaders of both parties to avoid categorical generalizations about each other and strive to find common ground.
J.P. Pitarque ’12, a joint studies major at F&M, said he was excited that the College hosts speakers of Casey’s caliber. “Even if you don’t agree with his party, the fact that he’s here talking with students is good. It’s important for everyone to be informed.”
Many of those in attendance waited to speak with Casey one-on-one following the event. Delphine Perrodin, a post-doctoral fellow and visiting assistant professor of physics and astronomy at F&M, spoke with the senator about the hot-button issue of hydrofracking, often referred to simply as “fracking,” a means of extracting natural gas from rock formations.
“It was nice that F&M was able to get Sen. Casey here, and nice to be able to talk to him,” Perrodin said. “Fracking is great for economics, but we need to study its environmental and health impacts. As a scientist, I want to make sure research is done to find out what fracking entails.”
After practicing law in Scranton, Casey was elected Pennsylvania’s auditor general in 1996 and reelected in 2000. He was elected state treasurer in 2004. In the 2006 race for U.S. Senate, he defeated incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum in a nationally observed contest.
In the Senate, Casey serves on the Committee on Agriculture, Committee on Foreign Relations, Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Special Committee on Aging, and the Joint Economic Committee.
F&M has invited United States Sen. Pat Toomey to visit campus in the fall.