April 24, 2014

Grassroots at 7,000 Feet

On Thursday, October 23rd, I spent the day at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado (elevation 6,872 feet). The college is located about 25 miles north of the New Mexico and Colorado border and it is really one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

My day was packed! I had an 8:00 a.m. presentation, a radio interview on KDUR, lunch and dinner discussions with students (who were all exceptionally bright), an afternoon presentation, and finally a screening of I.O.U.S.A.. My guides at the "Fort" were Professors Jennifer Stollman and John Gadbois.

The theme for the day was fiscal literacy. Both Professors Stollman and Gadbois are concerned that students are not being exposed to the implications of the long-term challenges our nation faces and that younger people are not being given the skills to be literate about fiscal issues. The professors had already traveled to Washington, D.C. for a presentation by Concord Chief Economist Diane Lim Rogersand the Heritage Foundation's Stuart Butler, and have been encouraged to focus on fiscal education by Acting President and Provostfor Fort Lewis College, Steve Roderick. I was thrilled that Provost Roderick joined us at most of the day's events.

During my morning presentation, I discussed the basics of the federal budget, the long-term challenges facing Social Security and Medicare, and I did a brief overview of Senator McCain and Senator Obama's tax and spending proposals. The best part of the presentation was how engaged the students were once I took questions. They were quite thoughtful and really seemed to grasp the size of the problem. All of this before 9:00 a.m.! And, the students I met with the rest of the day were similarly impressive.

The day ended with a screening of I.O.U.S.A. at the Abbey Theatre in historic downtown Durango. It was so crowded that students were standing behind our seats, making it literally standing room only! The film was a hit and most of the crowd stayed around for a question and answer session, which lasted another 30 minutes.

That ended my long, but fruitful, day in Durango on a really up-beat note. As I answered questions from the audience, it was apparent that although these issues may not be the sexiest in the world, the audience cared deeply about them and how they will help determine the future of our country.

--Jeff Thiebert, National Grassroots Director, (based in Lufkin, TX)