PURCHASE, N.Y. – The importance of voting was explained to 1,000 area middle school students at the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, SUNY, by U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey and Assemblyman Robert Castelli.
“This was a delight,” said Lowey, a Democrat running for re-election in the 17th House District. “We have to do more and more like this in our schools because the fact that 50 percent of people don’t vote is pretty disgraceful.”
The students also watched “Vote?” — a performance by the Eckerd Theater Company, “focusing on the history of the right to vote in the U.S.,” the college said in a statement.
Students asked Castelli and Lowey questions about increasing taxes, high student loan debt and the laws they have helped to pass. Both were impressed by the questions, which were sent to moderator Dolores Obuch, former principal of the King Street School in Port Chester and current Purchase faculty member.
“I thought they were very good,” Castelli said of the questions. “They were very thought-provoking questions, and I hope our answers were equally thought-provoking.” He is the Republican incumbent candidate in the redrawn New York State Assembly's 93rd District.
The two politicians agreed on many issues during the question-and-answer session, including on student loan relief, zero tolerance for drinking and driving, and that more people must vote in November.
“It was great. It’s important to understand how your government works and it’s important to understand the requirement for service,” said Castelli, who served in the Vietnam War. “This government didn’t get to be the greatest nation in the world without people working and trying and sacrificing for it. They need to understand that their commitment to that starts at a young age.”
They were both hopeful that the students would urge their parents and those they know who are eligible to vote to do so.
“I really congratulate SUNY Purchase for bringing all the schools into the program and again, it is so distressing to me that 50 percent of the people don’t vote,” said Lowey. “If they can go back and tell their parents, ‘I met the congresswoman, I met the assemblyman, you have to go and vote,’ then no matter who they vote for, it’s a privilege to vote in our country and that’s why this program is so important.”