Secretaries of State build awareness, earn bragging rights

Questioning the intelligence of politicians is common, but on Oct. 13, VanCougs got the chance to figure out whether they were, indeed, smarter than a secretary of state. Washington State University Vancouver’s Firstenburg Student Commons hosted Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown and her Washington counterpart, Kim Wyman; Wyman has the distinction of being Washington State’s first female secretary of state. Community leaders Monica Stonier, Liz Pike, Greg Kimsey and Ed Barnes, among others, were also on hand to promote the upcoming Clark County elections and stress the importance of young adults getting to the polls. As an incentive to get there early, free “Vancougs Vote” t-shirts were handed out at sign-in. Several students immediately began wearing their new shirts.

The VanCoug American Democracy Project and Washington State University Vancouver’s Director of Legislative Affairs, Ashlyn Salzman, put on the event in a joint effort. Salzman said that the event took two weeks to plan after the Secretaries contacted the University about making an appearance.

The event began with a speech from Chancellor Mel Netzhammer. Netzhammer said that the “Political process is a passion [of his] and is the foundation of our country.” Netzhammer also said “what the political process lacks is instant gratification”, using the ALS ice bucket challenge as his example. “The ice bucket challenge allowed participants to film a video of them pouring water on themselves in the name of ALS awareness. The videos posted to social media where it received publicity and left the participant feeling he/she made a difference. If more young adults are going to get active and involved with the political process, they have to be engaged.”

After opening speeches from each Secretary, questions from the student audience included “What could you have done in your early teen/adult years to make your pathway to politics easier?” and “Who has inspired you the most in your political career?” Secretary Brown said, “making your name and face known are essential to kick-starting your political career, which can be done through getting face time in the courtroom.” Secretary Wyman said, “getting out into the community and talking to voters (especially young adults) is the key to success in politics.”

After the speeches and questions, a jeopardy style game tested the knowledge of both secretaries. Topics included: registration and voting, current elections, secretary of state duties, secretary of State history and state trivia. Serving as the “Alex Trebek” of the game was Washington State University Vancouver professor Carolyn Long of the Political Science department. Prior to starting the game, each Secretary was asked a “soft question”. Wyman was asked “By how many points will the Cougars win the Apple Cup over the Huskies in a few weeks?” Wyman enthusiastically said “25 — Go Cougs!” Brown was asked “Who has the prettier campus? Washington State University Vancouver or Portland State University?” Brown responded, “While my heart belongs to Portland, the views of Mt. St. Helens and the landscaping make WSU Vancouver a beautiful campus.” Both Secretaries struggled with some of the questions and the audience laughed along with them. In the end, Brown triumphed in this contest of Secretaries over Wyman.

When asked what events like this means to students and what they should be getting from the event, Salzman said, “It shows students that the electoral process is fun… events like this let students know that they make a difference. They learn more about ballot measures and the important issues that are facing our county. This event also shows students that elected officials care about them and want to get to know them.”

If you would like to know more about this event or how to get involved with the political process, contact Director of Legislative Affairs Ashlyn Salzman at aswsuv.dla@wsu.edu or the VADP at wsuvadp@gmail.com


Photo features Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman

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