WASHINGTON - Greg Cendana, president of the United States Student Association (USSA) touched off cheers at the America's Future Now conference with his impassioned demand that Congress pass a $100 billion jobs bill and the "Dream Act" to allow undocumented youth to attend college without fear of deportation.
Cendana, the first openly gay president of USSA, told the gathering he grew up in Sacramento, child of working-class Filipino immigrants. Despite generous scholarships, a Pell Grant, and two part-time jobs, he owed $40,000 in student loans when he graduated from UCLA. Millions of college educated youth are in the same predicament, tens of thousands of dollars in debt and no jobs, he said. "As we're moving forward into the 2010 elections, not only do we face debt but an economy with over 10 percent unemployment and for youth, especially youth of color, unemployment of 20 percent."
He reminded President Obama and Democrats in the Senate and House that youth turned out in record numbers to give them majority control in the 2008 elections. "It's not just about the elections," he added. "Yes, we have to turn out in numbers. But we also need to build the progressive movement....We are in the front lines of change. We are going to organize. We can win but only if we come together."
He assailed the near trillion in tax dollars spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan warning that the youth and student movement will oppose supplemental spending for war.
He said 150 members of USSA were heading to Capitol Hill that afternoon to lobby for jobs and the Dream Act.
He told the World moments after the speech, that USSA has scheduled meetings with Senators and their aides "to talk to them about youth unemployment and money for jobs and also about the Dream Act." USSA is fighting hard for passage of the Dream Act with the slogan, "Education, not Deportation!"
He added, "We need to supply the missing link, to show how urgent it is that the Senate pass these pieces of legislation. We are disappointed by the inaction we see on Capitol Hill so far. We must push our members of Congress and hold them accountable."
Photo: Tim Wheeler