State senator visits campus
Hunter Lyle – Reporter
In honor of Constitution Day, the university celebrated the day by inviting State Senator Gary Winfield to campus.
The founding fathers of this nation signed a living document 231-years-ago that laid out the rules in which they lived and ruled by.
“Having the Constitution, and having the first amendment is crucial today,” said Winfield, “having a voice inspires people.”
Winfield started from humble beginnings. Born in the Bronx, he started his political journey by first observing the politics in the world around him.
“I grew up in the housing project in the south Bronx,” said Winfield, “You can imagine how politics had something to do with where I grew up and the experiences that I had.”
After moving to Long Island, Winfield found a politically active community and began to find
his voice. Being around those people and exchanging ideas and
experiences, Winfield said, “it helped me feel like I could say something more in the space where I live.”
He then enlisted in the United States Navy, where he worked on the nuclear power program. When returning home, Winfield found himself in New Haven, and was upset with what he saw.
“I saw a city that was very much divided,” said Winfield.“It ate at me that the city of New Haven developed the way it did.”
Winfield started using his voice to start pushing for change, while also motivating others to do the same.
In some other countries, when people speak out about the government, even local government, they get crushed, or even killed in some cases, said Winfield, but because
of the Constitution and the First Amendment, there are protections and people can protest.
“You can speak out here because we have this document that says, ‘you have the freedom to express yourself, you have the freedom to petition the government for change.’ And that’s the beauty of the Constitution,” said Winfield. “I found myself in a place where I was getting really happy that I could speak in this way.”
In 2008, Winfield was elected to state representative as a Democrat, and in 2014, moved to the state senate. As a freshman politician, he began to, and continues to this day, advocate for bipartisanship.
There was a democratic supermajority when first arriving, said Winfield, but there were republican ideas that made sense, so there was a certain responsibility to make good ideas work.
For freshman, political science major and Secretary for the College Democrats Nick Carbone, took that message to heart.
“I learned a lot from today, especially in terms of bipartisanship,” said Carbone. “We tend to get caught in our political bubbles, where its one side wins, one side loses like he said. You have to try and find common ground rather than hammering things through without a voice from the other side.”
On a final note, Winfield stressed how important each person’s voice is and nothing is truly impossible.
For people who think they only have one voice, and their voice will not matter, Winfield said, they are wrong.
“The reason that the death penalty is not here anymore,” said Winfield, “transgender people have rights they didn’t have, we’re a sanctuary state, we wrote a police accountability bill that wasn’t supposed to happen. All that stuff happened because we had people that were like ‘Maybe I can’t make it happen, but maybe I can,’ I tell my kids, I don’t know what’s impossible until I’ve tried it. It doesn’t matter what you say because I don’t know what I can do unless I’ve tried.”
Photo Credit: Jenna Stepleman