Washington governor Jay Inslee visits campus on Tuesday

by Andrew Culver | 1/25/19 3:10am

On Tuesday afternoon, democratic Washington governor Jay Inslee spoke to Dartmouth students on the importance of combating climate change. Inslee is “very close” to making a decision about running for president, he told the gathered students and community members.

Inslee came to New Hampshire for the opening of a chapter of the New Hampshire League of Conservation Voters, Jamal Raad, a political spokesman for Inslee, said. Inslee was invited to come speak at Dartmouth by Michael Parsons ’20, director of outreach and candidate affairs for the Dartmouth Democrats. 

Inslee’s talk focused on the necessity of fighting climate change and was centered around the urgent need for action, the ways in which climate change affects all aspects of our lives, why combating climate change holds promise for the future of the American economy, and why he is personally optimistic about our ability to fight climate change.

“It is the moment for action,” Inslee said, regarding climate change. “This is the 11th hour, but it is America’s shinning hour to do what we do best, to embrace a new challenge and lead the world in a clear energy revolution.” 

Inslee stressed the ways in which combating climate change will bolster the American economy, saying that we are in a time of “peril” but also “great promise.”

“There is no greater ability to grow jobs than to defeat climate change,” Inslee said, noting the creation of jobs in the growing clean energy sector. 

Inslee also appealed to the “can do” attitude and resilience of the American people.

“We all have some obligation to each other to act … This is a matter of the American character, not just scientific principle,” he said. 

While Inslee has still not officially announced his candidacy for the 2020 election, he stressed that America needs a Democratic nominee “who will make climate change a priority,” he said. 

The talk was followed by a question and answer session with the audience. When asked how he would represent an increasingly diverse Democratic party, Inslee acknowledged that he has not experienced the bias and difficulties facing minority groups in the U.S.   

“I and people in my situation have an added responsibility to be dedicated to increasing opportunity for everyone,” he said.

In response, Inslee cited his commitment to ensuring a diverse workforce in the Washington state government, implicit bias training for his staff members and his commitment to criminal justice reform as evidence of this dedication. 

Solving issues of social justice in American society “requires a person like me and in my situation to do those things,” Inslee said. “I am proud of the work I have done.” 

Mathieu Delarue ’22, who attended the talk, said that Inslee’s relating of climate change to a broad range of “other issues that are very much on voters’ minds” convinced him of the ability of climate change to be the central issue of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Ally Tannenbaum ’22 similarly saw climate change as a powerful message for a political campaign.

“Candidates don’t pay enough attention to it,” she said. “You just don’t see climate change as [an issue] that is typically at the forefront of a potential campaign.”

In an interview with The Dartmouth after the talk, Inslee said that he appreciated the invitation to speak at Dartmouth as a place that “embraces science” and “progressive thinking.” 

“The young people of this nation understand science, they know there is no debate about climate change, and they know they are the ones that will be living with the degradation of their lives … if we do not act,” he said. 

Parsons said that Dartmouth students should be on the lookout for more potential and official presidential candidates coming to Dartmouth as 2020 approaches.

“Dartmouth is a really exciting place for them to come because they know that we will always show out and give a good turnout,” Parsons said, adding that most recently the Dartmouth Democrats have reached out to the campaign of California Senator Kamala Harris.

“[Candidates] are declaring by the day,” said Gigi Gunderson ’21, president of the Dartmouth Democrats. “We are hoping to have one or two major declared candidates coming up by the end of the winter.”