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Kennedy-Townsend offers message of empowerment to college students

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POTSDAM - SUNY Potsdam student and campus history club vice president Erin Barr recalls that the club’s efforts to bring former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to campus was “a shot in the dark.”

But to the surprise of Ms. Barr and other history club members, Ms. Townsend responded favorably to the request, and the club was able to raise enough funding to bring her north to the college.

Ms. Barr and history club treasurer and SUNY Potsdam student Eric Martel felt the students would be able to relate to Ms. Townsend’s message of encouraging young people to shape the country into what they want it to be.

“We’re making the future. We’re the ones who have to fight for the world we want, and not fit into the current world,” Mr. Martel said.

Ms. Barr, Mr. Martel and other SUNY Potsdam students were able to share their thoughts on these topics in person with Ms. Townsend, following a panel discussion, which also featured women and gender studies professor Dr. Jacqueline Goodman and students Lilian M. Gotlieb and Kristina L. Coyne, both women and gender studies majors.

Ms. Townsend seemed more laid-back and direct than she was in her keynote speech later in the day, offering her honest and sometimes harsh opinions on women in power and GOP policies. She addressed the income gap in America, saying America needs to change its tax policies to protect the middle-class and break up the concentrations of wealth in a small group of people.

“We have lost our ability to fight for the middle-class. Most of the wealth in this country has gone to the top 1 percent,” Ms. Townsend said.

She also related her thoughts on former Alaska Governor Sarah L. Palin, whom she offered tongue-in-cheek praise to for opening America’s political system to attractive women. She said Ms. Palin’s stance against abortion and her TV show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, hurt the GOP.

Ms. Townsend also offered praise for recent, progressive policy changes, such as the gay-rights movement and the end of the ban on women in serving in combat roles in the U.S. military. Addressing the former, she praised young people for so quickly opening their minds to gays’ and lesbians’ wishes to marry their significant others. She said no other equal rights movement throughout U.S. history had progressed so quickly.

Ms. Townsend responded very favorably to ending the ban on women serving in combat, calling it a critical step in the ongoing women’s rights movement. “Until women are drafted there will not be equality,” Ms. Townsend said.

Ms. Townsend also alluded to further shifts of economic and polotical power from men to women in the near future, pointing out roughly 60 percent of U.S. college students are female.

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