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On October 24, I attended a service day at Shubow Park in Brighton to repair a playground that had been neglected for some time. The service day had not been arranged by PBHA or one of the many community-service groups on campus, but instead by one of the U.S. Senate candidates running to fill the seat of Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56: Alan A. Khazei ’83. Working in the park that afternoon revealed to me what an innovative and unique campaign Khazei was running—one that wasn’t based on a debate over big government or small government, but rather on active citizenship and public service. Seeing the group of mostly college-age students at work that day persuaded me of the sincerity of the Khazei campaign and of the value of his platform. Alan Khazei showed me that day he is the right choice for the Senate.
Khazei’s platform, which centers on the idea of “Big Citizenship,” is based on increasing citizen engagement with the political process—and not just during election years. Khazei believes that citizens have the power to articulate and effectually fix the major social problems of our time. As The Boston Globe noted in its endorsement of Khazei, his ideas provide a welcome relief from “Reagan-era skepticism” about the power of the government by thinking up unconventional ways to solve the nation’s biggest problems. Citizens have the real power to influence the nature of political initiatives in the coming years and choose the United States’s social agenda, but the extent of that influence depends on their engagement in the present. Alan Khazei is the candidate best equipped to increase citizens’ participation and help them shape their own political futures in this nation.
Khazei’s platform is not solely based on the rhetoric of Big Citizenship, however; he has over two decades of public-service experience. In 1988, Khazei co-founded City Year, a program that provides young adults between the ages of 17 and 24 with the chance to participate in 10 months of community service. Khazei’s insight was noted by none other than President Bill Clinton: In 1994, Clinton used City Year as a template in initiating the $250 million AmeriCorps program.
Khazei’s extensive work in public service has given him the kind of political experiences he will need to be a true coalition builder in the Senate. Khazei has already reached across the aisle in his attempts to implement a City Year-esque service program on a national level. His devotion to the objectives of Big Citizenship supersedes his commitment to any party platform, and he is the least likely of the Democratic candidates to fall into an ideological lockstep with his party. Khazei’s public-service initiatives have also given him insights into the lawmaking process in Washington: A bill that calls for 250,000 volunteers to serve in a domestic Peace Corps program is the result of efforts by Khazei, who worked closely with Senator Kennedy in pushing the bill through Congress.
Accordingly, “grassroots” is a huge theme for Khazei’s campaign, and he sees public, not special-interest, engagement as the key to success in the Senate as well. He has accepted no money from PAC or lobbyist groups but instead is basing his campaign on private citizen donations. Khazei’s work in Washington will not be bound to lobbyist groups or special interests, but to the citizens of Massachusetts, whom he promises to serve devotedly.
In terms of his policies, Khazei has outlined the most articulate and well-thought-out proposals on the situation in Afghanistan and on education. As a recent Newsweek article noted, he is the only candidate who completely supports President Obama’s plan for education reform, promoting more accountable ways of measuring teachers’ effectiveness and supporting the expansion of charter schools to ensure higher graduation rates in some of America’s most underachieving districts. Whereas the remaining three candidates have hedged on supporting comprehensive education reform in the face of pressure from teachers’ unions, Khazei is the only candidate to outline a full, articulate, and broad-based plan to improve America’s schools.
As The Boston Globe noted, in a campaign in which most of the Democratic candidates will probably vote the same way on many bills in the Senate, the difference between them rests more on personal leadership than on political division. Congressman Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.), building a campaign that runs on antagonism more than on state unity, lacks the tools that will be necessary for coalition building and cross-party negotiations in the Senate. In addition, Attorney General Martha M. Coakley’s tentative approach to policy reform tends to overlook valuable opportunities for legislative improvement. Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen G. Pagliuca would bring burnished business credentials to his position as a senator, but his questionable knowledge in debates has called his abilities as a policymaker into question. In contrast, Alan Khazei combines an analytical approach to policymaking with the kind of legislative energy that is necessary to ensure real reform in the Senate.
Khazei’s campaign promises and the actions he has used to back them up have garnered him strong support on the Harvard campus, and the Harvard Students for Khazei group has been an active presence at rallies and events in support of the candidate. As the candidate with the most passionate support at Harvard, Alan Khazei has convinced Harvard students to support him, and he has convinced me to support him. As The Globe put it, he represents “Massachusetts’ best chance to produce the next great senator,” and he embodies a tradition that Ted Kennedy proudly upheld during his congressional tenure. As a worthy successor to the “Lion of the Senate,” only one candidate can effectively fill the spot. Hopefully, voters making it out to the polls (open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday) will remember that that candidate is Alan Khazei.
Peter M. Bozzo ’12, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Eliot House.
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