The vice president’s message for UWM students: Lead

It had to rank as one of the most unexpected speakers of any political science course anywhere.

The vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, popped into a UWM course, American Government and Politics, on Thursday with a singular message for the undergraduates: “Lead on unity and climate change.”

Harris made a stop at the Northwest Quad building on the UWM campus, where she first met with about 15 Milwaukee Hispanic leaders – including Alberto Maldonado, director of the Roberto Hernández Center at UWM – to talk about issues of importance to the Latino community. “I’m here to listen more than I am to speak,” she told the gathered leaders.

Vice President Kamala Harris greets Milwaukee Common Council President Jose Perez during a visit with local Latinx leaders at UWM on Thursday. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)

And then she surprised the undergraduates attending class in the building.

“I need your leadership,” she told the students. “Part of what I’m asking of you is to remind people that we need to act together as communities. And the other issue that I’m going to ask you to lean into is reminding everyone about the climate crisis. You guys are going to pay the price for what we do or what we have.”

Harris said that protecting the planet should be a nonpartisan issue because it affects everyone.

“As members of a democracy, we need to dispense with unnecessary conflict and partisanship,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who you voted for last time. If we don’t come together on this issue, we are all going to pay the price.”

She noted that investing in a clean energy economy makes sense because that will also create jobs.

“Let’s not accept false choices,” she said. “It has to be about ‘let’s save this planet,’ and I’m going to count on you to get that message out.”

And she told the class of mostly freshmen that she was proud of them for embarking on a college journey.

“Your freshman year is so exciting. You’re sitting next to people who you’ll end up knowing your entire life, I’m telling you,” she said. “So enjoy this. Your big brains are like a sponge right now, so just absorb it all, ask all the questions and lead, just lead because we need you guys.”

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