Taylor Avery // Nevada Sagebrush
Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke speaks to a crowd about his policy platform at Bibo Coffee Company on Thursday, April 25. O’Rourke discussed immigration, climate change and affordability of higher education.

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, a 2020 presidential candidate, spoke at an event on Thursday morning at Bibo Coffee Company on Record Street.

The Texan announced his campaign for presidency on Thursday, March 14 — only four months after his loss against Ted Cruz for United States Senate.

“We have not faced a greater set of challenges in our lives, perhaps in the life of this country,” O’Rourke said on Thursday.

O’Rourke spoke about a number of “challenges,” including immigration.

“Far too often in the shadows, making a minimum wage if lucky, sometimes much less than that, held in some form of modern bondage, their immigration status used as leverage to keep them working, to keep them here, to keep them in the shadows, preventing you and me from realizing their full potential,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke also spoke about climate change and the steps he would take as president to reduce its effects on the environment.

“Climate change, that has warmed this planet more than a degree Celsius just since 1980 and will continue to warm and produce the disasters, caused not by god, not by nature, but by all of us, our emissions, our excesses, our inaction in the face of the science,” O’Rourke said. “I would make sure that we have very clear targets to get this country to net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. It will take a significant investment not only in solar and wind but the accompanying infrastructure, transmission lines, and technologies and innovations like storage.”

Those in attendance were also given the opportunity to question O’Rourke.

One attendee asked how he would address the teacher shortage if he became president.

“One, we make sure that every teacher is paid a living wage,” said O’Rourke. “Two, let’s make sure that we start public education not at four or five years old in kindergarten but universally at three or four years old in pre-kindergarten for every child in America.”

O’Rourke also addressed affordability of higher education.

“Let’s make sure that college education is affordable,” O’Rourke said. “Free community college for every single American and debt free if we are attending public serving, public financed four year universities in this country.”

Students expressed their positive feelings towards O’Rourkes plans for education.

“I want to be a teacher someday, so [universal pre-kindergarten] is kind of dear to my heart, that he actually wants to do that and is focusing on education as well as the community college aspect [sic],” said Kevin Finkler, a sophomore at the University of Nevada, Reno. “I think that is something very viable, is making community college free and then possibly moving onto the university level for debt free.”

O’Rourke’s plans for funding initiatives such as loan forgiveness and free community college focused on the taxation of corporations and the wealthy.

“There are a number of ways that we can ensure that we have the resources to invest in people and in communities,” O’Rourke said. “One is to roll back the worst of the Trump tax cuts.”

Some questioned if he could be making more of an impact in Texas.

Jason Mennel, a native Texan studying at the university, said, “He could probably still do a lot of work [in Texas] so to see him announce for President, it kind of feels like, well what happened to caring about all these issues and trying to fix them?”

But others felt more strongly about his place in national politics.

“I told him when I went up to him that he’s so inspirational, at least to me as a young person and to all of my friends,” said Finkler. 
“Too many times often in politics we’re are so polarized and we don’t want to compromise on things. He is so willing to compromise on things and have common sense solutions and not based on the party or the ideology that he has.”

Another UNR student, Steve Ramirez, echoed this feeling.

“He has a really clear Democratic stance while also trying to be bipartisan by saying, ‘While we don’t agree on everything, we can cross the line and be able to work with one another,’” said Ramirez. “I think what he’s doing is great, trying to cross the line and have a bipartisan agreement.”

Taylor Avery can be reached at oali@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.