“You all have only known a climate crisis, you all have only known active-shooter drills, you all became aware of injustices when you witnessed what happened to George Floyd,” Harris said at the Oct. 11 event. “I know you all ain’t having that.”
Harris’ address at the Sottile Theater came a bit behind schedule as she was more than 90 minutes late in leaving Washington on Air Force Two. By the time she got on stage after motorcading from the Charleston Air Force Base, she hit a variety of topics following a standing ovation.
Many of her comments struck at the mood of the nation.
“Right now, we are at a moment in our country where in many ways there is an intentional, full-on attack on the freedom and liberties that I believe are what makes us respected as a democracy,” she said.
She touched on voting rights on the same day the gerrymandering case surrounding the Lowcountry’s 1st Congressional District seat held by Republican Nancy Mace was being argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Right now in South Carolina, we are looking at a situation where state legislators basically passed a law that would dilute the Black vote in the state,” she said, adding, “Let’s understand that it is wrong that any elected official would try to choose who can vote for them, when it should be the voter who chooses who represents them.”
The auditorium, which seats about 785, remained filled with students despite her tardy showing.
Mariah Fitzgerald, a junior sociology student minoring in education, resonated most with the vice president’s views on gun safety.
“I think we are at a place where it is terrifying to become a teacher,” she said.
Harris asked students in the audience to raise their hands if they experienced an active-shooter drill during their K-12 education. Nearly the whole auditorium lifted their hands.
“Our young leaders who are supposed to be in this environment where we are feeding their God-given capacity to learn … And some part of their brain is afraid that somebody might bust through the door with a gun,” said Harris, noting that gun injuries are the leading cause of death of children in America.
Harris added that she is “absolutely in favor of the Second Amendment,” but believes in the need for an assault weapons ban and background checks.
She was additionally asked about LGBTQ rights.
“Fundamentally, a lot of this fight for freedoms is about the right that people should have the freedom to just be, to just be,” she said.
LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights were topics that junior Avé Blanchette enjoyed hearing the vice president discuss. Blanchette appreciated that Harris acknowledged these rights as basic human rights.
“These are real human issues,” said Blanchette.
Harris told the students they witnessed the highest court in the land take away a constitutional right when overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
“Many of you will know fewer rights than your mother or your grandmother,” Harris said.
After speaking on the administration’s $1 trillion climate change investment to support resilience efforts in communities, Harris ended her talk with advice for the students. She told the audience not to listen to people who tell them they are too young to make a difference.
“I eat ‘no’ for breakfast,” Harris said as the audience responded with laughter.
“I encourage you to have an ambition,” said Harris. “I encourage you to see what is possible and what can be unburdened by what has been.”
Kit Fischer, a junior Spanish education student, said he did not go to the event wanting to vote Biden-Harris again, and his viewpoint did not change after hearing from Harris. He expressed frustration with the Biden administration resuming wall construction at the U.S. and Mexico border.
“A lot of members of the Biden administration say a lot of platitudes about what they are going to do, what they want to do. But when it comes time to actually putting the policies into place, they don’t,” Fischer said.
The college appearance marked Harris’ seventh stop in her monthlong “Fight for Our Freedoms College Tour” aimed toward young voters. The forum was moderated by Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and model/activist Amelie Zilber.
The state GOP issued a statement taking a dig at her appearance, questioning the Biden administration’s commitment to border security “especially given the chance that terrorists could use our open borders to commit atrocities here in America like they have done in Israel,” said party Chairman Drew McKissick.
Madeline Quon contributed to this report.
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