Butterfield talks education, politics at HCC
Each year a new group of people gains the right to vote, becoming politically active and forming the generation who will determine the future. In an effort to reach out to these young and upcoming voters, Congressman G.K. Butterfield visited Halifax Community College to dispense knowledge.
Butterfield, D-N.C. 1st, began his talk to the 240-strong assembly by explaining the duties of Congress as well as the concept of budget deficit, laying the groundwork for the rest of his speech.
He warned of a potential government shutdown if the 2017 budget is not finalized by April 28 and compared the Republicans and Democrats to siblings who would eventually reach a resolution and carry on as a peaceful family, lending a hopeful air to his words.
During his discussion of the budget, Butterfield mentioned the aborted repeal of the Affordable Care Act and advised the students to sign up for healthcare.
As the initial speech wound down, the Student Government Association read questions students submitted.
The first question concerned federal financial aid for college students and what happens if it goes unused. Butterfield, referring to himself as an advocate for education, advised students of the college to gain their degree and enter the work force as quickly as possible.
As for what sort of careers students should look into, Butterfield advised STEM careers are a developing market. He went on to say he would fight for the reinstatement of year-round Federal Pell Grants but acknowledged the outlook on the fight was rather bleak.
“I don’t believe any programs at the federal level will see an increase,” he said. “Our challenge is to see they are not cut.”
In the process of speaking about federal programs, Butterfield took a moment to recognize the importance of Federal TRiO Programs which are meant to serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“TRiO has been a godsend to communities not just in North Carolina but across the country,” he said before acknowledging the future of the programs is unclear and stating his intention to fight for the program.
In closing, Butterfield encouraged the students to become engaged and educated in the realm of politics, exercising their right to vote and form their own opinions about issues.
“If we can raise public opinion around these issues, we will begin to see change,” he said.
Butterfield ceded the floor to Michael Elam, HCC president/CEO, who briefly addressed students, commending them for their level of engagement before adjourning to a meeting with Butterfield and Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Felt.
“You are the reason our congressman and our state senator fight so hard to make sure you have the resources you need,” he said, acknowledging the attendance of state Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Rocky Mount, at the event.
In the second, smaller meeting Butterfield said he could not picture North Carolina without the community college system and gave the leaders of the college a mission of their own.
“Just keep doing what you are doing and we will fight the fight in Washington,” he said. “What you can do for me is keep these students focused on current events,” he said. “They have to know both sides of the debate and form their opinions.”