State Senator Julie Morrison ’78, Knox College alumna, spoke with The Knox Student recently about the upcoming election cycle, emphasizing the importance of the election on national and local levels.
The Knox Student: What do you think is uniquely important about this election?
Julie Morrison: Any time you have an open seat for the president, that’s really an important time because both parties are looking at themselves and deciding if they want to change themselves or if they are happy with the current direction. I think you see that in the debates when you have different candidates talking about their priorities. People are vying for attention, but they’re also trying to determine the direction of their particular party. So I think there is a grand scheme to it … And we have a female candidate who has a very viable chance to the democratic candidate for the first time. That’s also kind of historic.
TKS: What do you think is at stake for college students?
JM: You are on the cusp of going into the workplace. I think it’s really important for you because this election will to a large degree determine what kind of economy we’re going to have, how global we’re going to continue to be, or how narrow we will be in terms of our own commerce and development. It’s going to affect the kind of jobs that will be generated in the next ten years I think the kind of jobs and the availability and where they’re going to be something that’s influenced in this election.
TKS: Why should students focus on local as well as national elections?
JM: So national elections are a lot of fun because the media covers them every time you turn on the TV. The presidential, and even Congressional [elections] they are very sexy. But the people that you elect locally affect your day in day out life, your daily life, so much more.
The General Assembly in Illinois are going to create rules and regulations and laws on how people in Illinois live.
What kind of taxes they pay or don’t pay, how that money is going to be spent, what our education system is going to look like, how were are attracting those businesses that we need for our graduating college students, how we are bringing more people into Illinois that’s being done by and large by your state elected offices. It’s not as exciting or as dynamic in some ways, but boy, does it affect you everyday.
Also, if you volunteer for your Congressional or presidential election, you’re probably not going to see your candidate very often. But if you get involved in a local election, my volunteers in particular, I like to take them with me, It was something that people did for me when I was a student and I try to do that for young people who work with me. I think having access to the candidate and being able to talk to them and see them in action is huge.
TKS: Why should students focus on primaries as well as the national elections come November?
JM: This goes to what I said at the beginning: Especially at the national level, where the party sort of defines itself, what their priorities are going to be, that gets developed in the primaries. When you have Bernie talking about what his priorities are versus Hillary Clinton, people start to coalesce around who they believe in and how they want to see the party go. I think that’s true for both Republican and Democrat parties. Republicans especially talk a lot about immigration and if you support Donald Trump for example, or Ted Cruz, you’re gonna kind of know that you’re supporting a party that’s going to have a certain bent on treating somebody to deal with immigrants. I think the party dynamics are developed in the primary and that’s something that will probably follow the party four years.
TKS: How did Knox influence your career?
JM: A long time ago, [Professor of Political Science] Lane Sunderland was my teacher. He is someone who influenced me, probably in a way no other professor ever has. And I think about the things I learned in his classes when I’m sitting on the Senate floor. I know that sounds kind of corny, but it’s true.