What's on the minds of local students? Senator Patty Murray gets cynicism from high schoolers after visit

By Marietta Nelson
Bremerton Sun Staff


Bremerton, WA - U.S. Sen. Patty Murray visits Bremerton High School and Olympic College to talk about war, the economy and education.

Students in the contemporary world problems class at Bremerton High School engaged U.S. Sen. Patty Murray in a debate Monday that leaped from genetically modified food to war with Iraq to Referendum 51.

The 30 students were quiet and polite, but pointed while Murray, D-Wash., was in the room.

After she left, in a follow-up conversation with teacher Craig Smith, their cynicism rose to the top.

While Smith said he appreciated the opportunity for his students to meet a U.S. senator, his students posited that she came only out of obligation or political gain.

"She wanted to see into the hearts of youth," said Bucky Slegel, with a smirk.

In fact, Bremerton is just the first stop in a long list of Washington schools Murray will visit over the next month, before Congress begins a new session Jan. 6.

Murray spokesman Todd Webster said the senator wants to hear the concerns of Washington students. She spent an hour at Olympic College on Monday, too.

Of the 30 students she met with on Monday morning at Bremerton High School, just 14 knew Murray by face or by name before she visited the class. That's not bad, considering less than half of the adult population voted in the last election, several students said.

Senior Jessilyn Howard wondered whether knowing Murray was that important.

"She isn't relevant to us. She doesn't really ... relate to us," she said.

Senior Candyce Willis said Murray avoided the questions students asked, instead seeking their opinions.

And senior Noah Garguile wondered, "How much information did we actually get?"

Murray spent much of the hour with students discussing war with Iraq and explaining why she cast a "no" vote on the Iraqi resolution six weeks ago.

She urged the students to get more information about a possible war, especially those close to the draft age of 18.

"I think we should get the problem over with," senior Hugh Craig told Murray, echoing the sentiments of many classmates.

Garguile asked why Murray opposed giving Bush the power to declare war on Iraq.

"Do you think he would make a bad judgment?" Garguile asked.

"I think he would make a different judgment than I would," she answered.

At Olympic College on Monday afternoon, Murray fielded questions from about 50 students and staff. Questions ranged from trade with China to the role of oil in a war with Iraq to money for worker retraining.

In response to a question about more money for students returning to college, Murray reiterated her feelings on war with Iraq and said she fears federal money will be tied up in those preparations.

"We have a war with Iraq and a war on terrorism and every dollar right now is consumed by it," she said. "For those of us concerned about education and other issues, we are being told 'not right now.' "

Without a majority in the House or the Senate, Democrats will have a difficult time changing federal appropriations to fully fund education, Murray said.

Published in The Sun: 12/03/2002


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