Pitt senior Cedric Humphrey wanted to know what Joe Biden had to say to young Black voters disappointed in a system they feel has failed to protect them.
On Thursday night, Humphrey had the opportunity to ask the former U.S. vice president and current Democratic candidate for president his question in person—in front of a national audience on an ABC News town hall.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I was definitely trying to take it all in,” said Humphrey.
Biden’s answer, Humphrey said, “wasn’t anything I didn’t expect—I don’t know if he really answered the root of my question. But a couple of the perspectives I did appreciate from him were discussions of his plans for social entrepreneurship, which is key to addressing inequalities and inequities.”
Humphrey’s question has generated a lot of attention outside the debate. Besides lively exchanges on Twitter and a waiting cache of direct messages on the platform asking for him to be a guest on various podcasts, he’s already given interviews to KDKA in Pittsburgh and the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia. The New York Times has contacted him as well, and he’s been asked to appear on “CNN Tonight” with Don Lemon, scheduled for at 10 p.m. tonight (Friday, Oct. 16).
Humphrey is a political science and economics major in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences as well as the executive vice president on Pitt’s Student Government Board (SGB). His spot on Thursday’s Philadelphia town hall came after a series of stops and starts, with previous town halls and scheduled debates variously postponed, rescheduled and cancelled. ABC News had contacted a fellow SGB member earlier in the election season, looking for referrals to undecided voters to appear one of the events. Humphrey, who describes himself as a progressive Democrat, agreed to participate.
“For decades, African American voices have been absent from the conversation,” Humphrey said, explaining that he believes Democrats have taken African American votes for granted. He said he wanted to know specifically what Biden would say to young Black voters to earn their votes, as many feel so disappointed in the system that they may withhold their votes entirely. “Having the power not to use that vote is a vote,” he said.
Biden’s answer to Humphrey continued for nearly seven minutes, and he mentioned that if Humphrey stayed afterward, they could talk longer.
That didn’t happen, Humphrey said, because there were several people at the town hall who hadn’t had time to ask their questions at all.
However, he said, one of Biden’s campaign representatives did call him, and they talked for about a half an hour, arranging for Humphrey and Biden to speak directly sometime this weekend.
“I do appreciate him following up, going out of his way—that says a lot about him not just as a politician but as a person,” Humphrey said. “I’m excited to be able to talk to him.”
As for what comes next, Humphrey said, “I’m looking at my ballot right now and I’m going to put it in the mail.”
And, of course, he said, he’ll be checking his Twitter DMs, filling up with comments, questions and more interview requests.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed the experience,” he said.
Pitt is it at the town hall
The University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics also got a mention during ABC News’ town hall with Joe Biden on Thursday night.
An audience member referenced the Institute’s report Shale Gas Roundtable: Deliberations, Findings, and Recommendations when asking Biden’s position on fracking and plans for industry that won’t negatively impact the environment.
The Shale Gas Roundtable—composed of 24 civic leaders from the private, nonprofit and public sectors—explored the question of how the Western Pennsylvania region might most effectively and responsibly safeguard its communities and environment, grow the economy and manage unconventional oil and gas development.
The Institute of Politics regularly provides information about the major policy issues affecting the region to elected officials and community leaders. It is a nonpartisan forum where knowledge and diverse viewpoints are shared, synthesized and applied to the goal of promoting the quality of life and economic vitality of western Pennsylvania.
In one of the Institute’s newest initiatives, Pitt Chancellor Emeritus Mark A. Nordenberg, Chair of the Institute of Politics, hosts “Governing in Crisis: Preserving Democracy, the Rule of Law and American Values,” available on YouTube and major podcasts apps, for policymakers and citizens interested in timely issues in government.