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Senator Stabenow speaks to JMC students during Lunch and Learn

April 12, 2023 - Beth Brauer

Case Hall’s Club Spartan saw more traffic than usual yesterday. Typically, the event space is open to students during the day for studying and small group meetings, but the noon hour was packed during James Madison’s Lunch and Learn featuring Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the first woman from Michigan to be elected to the United States Senate. The “sold out” event was a big draw for Madison students across the four majors.

“I registered the day the event was announced on JMC’s Instagram,” said Emily Hoyumpa (SRP ’24). “When I went to D.C., I met members of Senator Stabenow’s staff and thought it would be pretty cool to see her in person. Plus, she’s an MSU alum.”

Debbie Stabenow with mic
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was the featured speaker for JMC's Lunch and Learn.

Senator Stabenow spoke about her career as a public servant and how she got her start in politics following the threatened closure of a local nursing home. Much of the senator’s message to students was how critical it is to be engaged, vote and elect people to power whose values match theirs.

For Katie Dyjach, executive staff assistant to Dean Thies, the big takeaway was the importance of finding ways to work with people across party lines. “I appreciated how she described the need for people to work together to find common ground. That is very relevant given what is going on in the world today,” Dyjach said.

The senior senator says her approach is to focus on one topic or issue that she and another member of Congress care deeply about, citing the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act she co-authored with former Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). “You focus on one issue at a time to reach out to the other side,” said Stabenow. She joked, “I’m still looking for the one thing to focus on with Ted Cruz (R-TX).”

Students listening to speaker
Students listen to Senator Stabenow speak in Case Hall's Club Spartan.

In response to an audience member’s comment about the senator’s support for Ukraine, Senator Stabenow discussed Ukraine’s fight to preserve democracy as a “fight for all the democracies in the world.”

A large portion of the senator’s commentary emphasized  the value of MSU student voter turnout over the last few election cycles, providing statistics to support how much student engagement matters; women’s reproductive rights; the importance of supporting Michigan’s agricultural economy; and the need for reform when it comes to gun violence prevention. “It’s going to take another election, but change must happen,” Stabenow said. “Vote those out who aren’t doing anything.”

First-year JMC student Ava Provins (CCP ’26) was especially appreciative of the senator’s comments relative to gun violence. “Her ability to answer student questions with informative and insightful answers was the highlight for me, and it seemed like she really empathized with all the students, especially when discussing gun control,” said Provins.