In the political theater of the mainstream news, coverage of the annual State of the Union address typically concentrates on the president's performance and the audience's reaction to the speech.
As an antidote to that focus on the politics of the event, a consortium of higher education associations teamed up with digital media start-ups this week to foster a more substantive conversation, via webcast and Twitter, on the policy proposals unveiled by President Obama during his address to the nation on Tuesday evening.
The event, #iSOTU, was sponsored by the National Student Affairs Professional Association, the American Association of State Colleges and other organizations.
Wheaton joined the effort, thanks to the Roosevelt Institute, Media Amelioration and Discernibility House (MAD House), and #WheatonCares, which organized a "watch party" to listen in on the discussion, contribute to the tweet up, and cheer on fellow students who were selected as speakers for the national webcast.
The event's organizers selected Liam Grace-Flood '17 and Michael Ratliff '16 as panelists for the webcast, which focused on four major topics—income inequality, criminal justice, immigration and education.
Grace-Flood joined a panel discussing issues of income inequality. The topic relates closely to a policy proposal for making college more affordable that the vice president of Wheaton's Roosevelt Institute chapter is working on and which has been selected as a finalist for publication in the organization's national journal.
A double major in mathematics and studio art from Guilford, Conn., Grace-Flood said that his passion for public policy reflects his interest in solving problems. "I see my involvement with the Roosevelt Institute as a way to engineer solutions to social problems."
Similarly, Ratliff's selection to participate in the segment on criminal justice issues connected with his interest in the topic."It's a subject that I've been personally interested in, particularly since the Ferguson case and the Atlantic magazine article on the case for reparations," said the economics major from Nashville, Tenn.