By Juan Misle
Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley presented his progressive credentials to a crowd of young professionals at an event held in the hip downtown Baby Wale bar in Washington D.C. The two-term former Maryland governor spoke at a bar filled with more than 300 millennials seeking to engage in politics and proposals for the upcoming presidential election on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.
The casual stop plays well into O’Malley’s campaign platform of renewed leadership in Washington. At 52 years old, he is the youngest candidate among Democratic Presidential hopefuls.
With an enthusiastic crowd of college students, young professionals, and grassroot organizers, O’Malley was introduced by his teenage son William as the alternative to the perceived usual suspects in the nation’s capital.
O’Malley did not hesitate in boasting his accomplishments as governor. During his tenure as the 61st governor of the “Old Line State”, Maryland oversaw the passage of the Dream Act, legalized marriage equality, and pursued a strong opposition to capital punishment by signing into law the abolition of the death penalty in 2013. But it was the topic of education that resonated the most with attendees. Under his watch, Maryland became the best ranked education system in the country for five straight years, and has sought to present the state’s education system as a national reference for reform. This quickly drove the conversation onto the issue of what to do with the piling student debt held by college students across the country.
An aggressive plan to tackle debt burden by making college tuition debt-free has received praise from progressives and moderates alike. O’Malley intends to accomplish this by reversing cuts to education made in some states, promoting grants to states that invest more in public universities, and making 4-year colleges lower tuition rates by matching costs to 10 percent of each state’s median income.
“We need only return to our true selves as Americans in remembering that our economy isn’t just money. Our economy is people. It is all of our people. And if we stay consistent with that principle, we will be able to look at each other in the eye and say that we made our country and our economy stronger, that we gave you a better future. What is the essence of being an American? That we shape our own destiny and our own future” said a confident O’Malley.
As he casually sipped on his craft beer, O’Malley shook hands, took pictures, and answered questions from the audience without shying away from Sanders supporters in attendance. The visit to the Baby Wale achieved what Mr. O’Malley intended to accomplish: inspire an idealistic youth bent on demanding proposals from candidates to solve some of the most pressing issues affecting young aspiring professionals.