U.S. Rep. Emanuel Speaks on ‘Big Ideas’ for Future of Government

Corinne Lestch

By Corinne LestchThe Daily Northwestern

About 70 people crowded the second floor of Barnes & Noble, 1630 Sherman Ave., Saturday afternoon to listen to U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) speak about his new book and the “big ideas” that he hopes Congress, now with a democratic majority, will act on.

Emanuel, who received a master’s degree from the School of Communication in 1985, was elected to Congress from Illinois’ fifth district in 2002, and is now the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He and Bruce Reed, who served with him as a top aide in former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 campaigns, wrote “The Plan,” a book that “outlines a new social contract for the next 40 or so years,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel is the first political figure to give a presentation and book signing at the new Barnes & Noble, which opened in August.

Emanuel introduced himself by shaking hands with each person who came to hear him speak, including Ellen Herdeck, a former staffer who did office work and canvassing for his 2002 campaign.

“I think he feels the Democratic agenda is just, and he knows how to get the job done,” said Herdeck, a Rogers Park resident.

Emanuel presented a sampling of the topics in his book, covering global economy, education, health care and the budget before analyzing the midterm elections.

“One of the first items in the book is a universal citizen service,” Emanuel said. He explained this as a three-month period during which citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 would be trained for different national and regional emergencies, such as a “major flood from a hurricane,” Emanuel said.

“Democrats have always done well when we’ve asked our citizens to give something to their country,” Emanuel said. “Citizenship is not an entitlement program; it’s a gift of responsibilities that you have.”

Emanuel also addressed the issue of affordable college tuition, which was important to parents and several Northwestern students in attendance.

“There are five separate deductions and credits that exist for college education,” Emanuel said. “My idea is to consolidate all five into one simplified $3,000 deduction for college education, two years of post-graduate work and any time in your life you want to get back to school to learn (you can).”

Audience members said they liked Emanuel’s ideas but were skeptical about whether his ideas actually could be implemented.

“I’m dubious of his (universal citizen) service program,” said Gabe Brunswick, a Weinberg sophomore. “I don’t know if you can actually train 18-to-25-year-olds for three months and actually give them something to do.”

Others said they were hopeful for change after hearing Emanuel speak.

“I like that he reassured us that health care was going to be a big focus, particularly for kids in a couple of years,” Weinberg sophomore Ryan Erickson said. “I’m glad someone is going to open up the dialogue again and start talking about how important this is.”

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