Campus, News

Ayanna Pressley answers questions from BU students

Representative Ayanna Pressley speaks at an election day event hosted by the Boston University College Democrats at the George Sherman Union on Tuesday. AUSMA PALMER/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley visited Boston University on Tuesday for an election day question-and-answer event hosted by the BU College Democrats.

More than 100 students gathered in the Conference Auditorium at the George Sherman Union for the chance to ask Pressley a question and to listen to her speak.

College Democrats compiled a list of questions for Pressley, taken from a form that attendees filled out. Pressley sat on stage with two student moderators, Cece Szutak, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and Nathan Bindseil, a senior in CAS and vice president of College Democrats.

Pressley started off by thanking the audience for a good turnout at her Q&A.

“Our coming together is another demonstration of resistance against the backdrop of the current political climate that we find ourselves in,” Pressley said.

College Democrats President Nancy Santarsiro, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, started off the event by giving a brief introduction of Pressley.

Born and raised in Chicago, Pressley said she moved to Boston to attend BU. She later withdrew from the university to help support her mother and worked as an aide to Congressman Joseph Kennedy and Senator John Kerry.

In 2009, Pressley launched a campaign for Boston City Council and became the first woman of color elected to the council in its 100-year history.

Pressley then defeated Incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano in 2018 and became the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from Massachusetts. She is one of only 22 members in the Senate and House of Representatives to serve without a four-year degree.

Pressley noted how her district in Massachusetts is in a major state of change.

“This seat is one of the most progressive, vibrant and diverse and also unequal districts in the country,” Pressley said.

One question asked was if and how local-level experience has affected work at a federal level. Pressley said, in many ways, the federal government has abandoned local-level issues and there is a strong need for municipal leaders who will stand in the gap.

“Everything is an issue of equity and health at the micro level,” Pressley said. “And the municipal is a form of government hostess of the people”.

Her work in municipal government allowed her to establish a new caucus within Congress called the Future of Transportation, which address how transportation is a social justice issue.

Pressley stayed after the event to take individual pictures with students.

Santarsiero said she felt Pressley was a powerful person to come speak at BU.

“I honestly was just awestruck when I met her before the event,” Santarsiero said. “She’s so nice down to earth, like, just so intelligent. It was a real honor to have her here.”

Bindseil helped organize the event and said he was pleased with how well the event went.

“I think it really turned out really well. All the team, all the executive board, communicated together,” Bindseil said. “We worked really hard, you know, communicating to make sure that all aspects of the event were planned out amongst ourselves and with [the Student Activities Office] team.”

Laura Bursel, a sophomore in CAS and COM, said that she appreciated Pressley’s willingness to speak up about issues she cares about.

“She doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind and speaking up for what she believes in,” Bursel said, “and she’s really really compassionate and cares a lot about the people that she represents.”

Bursel also said she liked how Pressley connected with the audience through her compassion.

“I think a lot of people sort of like miss the actual individual people when they’re thinking about the bigger picture,” Bursel said. “Ayanna really, actually cares about people and loves to connect with them on a more personal individual level.”

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