On Thurs., March 28, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University hosted Arizona Senator Jeff Flake as he conducted a town hall-style meeting with members of the campus and the Prescott community. Coordinated by the College Republicans Club at ERAU, this event was an excellent opportunity to participate in the democratic process and hear the Republican senator’s opinions on a wide variety of issues.
The Davis Learning Center was standing room only as involved citizens of all ages gathered for the meeting. Senator John McCain was scheduled to join Senator Flake for the event, but was unable to attend due to an illness. Senator Flake gave his colleague’s regrets for being unable to join before personally answering questions from the community for over an hour.
Topics covered during this event included many near and dear to the hearts of Arizona residents: gun control, immigration reform, and the federal deficit. Senator Flake impressed the audience with his knowledge and humility when an ERAU flight instructor asked about a federal bill that may vastly increase the number of flight hours necessary to become a flight instructor. As an important issue for many students, Senator Flake openly admitted that he did not know, but promised to educate himself on the bill in question.
On the topic of gun control, Senator Flake reassured his constituents that he would support gun control measures that better addressed the issue of mentally ill people and their access to weapons, but would not support universal background checks—a statement that was met with much enthusiasm from the crowd. When it comes to immigration reform and the federal deficit, however, Senator Flake took a very bipartisan approach.
The senator admitted that he was “happy congress had agreed on a budget at all, even if [he] did not agree with every item,” although he stressed the need for the United States to get on a financially stable path very soon. Senator Flake also urged support for an immigration reform bill that he and the “Gang of Eight,” a group of four Democrat and four Republican senators, are currently working on. This bill would enforce better border security, but would not only allow new immigrants to come into the United States legally, but also provide a path to citizenship for those already living in America. In a border state like Arizona, the need for “sane” immigration reform is better understood than anywhere else.
Senator Flake’s visit to Prescott was an exciting event for the town, but also an opportunity for ERAU students engage in the democratic process and continue to be an important entity in the greater community. As Prescott Campus Chancellor Dr. Frank Ayers put it, “Bringing elected representatives to the campus, hosting the community, and interacting with them—it’s wonderful. Events like this are open to all viewpoints, which is important to a university setting. Plus we really appreciate representatives who ask the people what they think.” And for all those in attendance, it certainly was a thought-provoking afternoon.