Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, in a speech on Sunday at Amherst College, urged students to be the change that they want to see in the country, saying they should fight through partisanship in the United States to get things done even if such a task proves difficult.
“We have the chance to go out and bring a message of change, of bipartisanship, forward,” Brown said.
He added: “I would not be standing here today if it was easy.”
Brown spoke at the event – which was sponsored by the Amherst College Republicans – along with musical artist Tony Melendez, who Brown and others called “inspirational.”
During his speech, Brown said that college students are the future leaders of “the greatest country in the world,” and noted that it is their job to make change.
“One of the reasons that I wanted to come and speak is to challenge you,” Brown said. “What are you going to do? Are you going to go out and challenge authority?”
Brown shared a story from his youth in which he got caught stealing, and a judge set him straight, convincing him that drinking alcohol and breaking the law was not the path to success. The judge made him write an essay about what it would be like to have his family watch him play basketball, a sport that he loved, in jail. Brown said that the assignment was eye-opening for him.
When he enrolled to Tufts University, he became part of student government, and said he began his lifelong goal of making positive change.
“I was even kind of a rebel back then, fighting with the administration to use money in better ways for us,” Brown said.
Brown’s speech was filled with rhetoric circulating around the theme of changing the country and putting the United States back on track, especially economically.
“Right now, in the U.S. Congress, you have people who put themselves and their party way ahead of their country. It’s disheartening,” he said. “But it creates an opportunity for you to go out and question authority, to make a difference, make change.”
Brown touted his accomplishments as a U.S. senator, saying that he was “the most bipartisan person down there.” He said that he voted evenly on both sides of the party lines and read all the bills that he voted for.
“I felt that I did what was right,” he added.
Brown criticized the manner by which Congress runs nowadays, calling the partisanship “disgusting,” and saying that it was one of the biggest challenges that he faced while serving as senator.
“Our Founding Fathers did not want everyone to be Democrat or Republican,” he said. “They wanted that check and balance, they wanted people to go out and do better.”
“You can’t tell me that someone is right 90 to 100 percent of the time,” he added.
Brown spoke specifically about the upcoming debt ceiling debate and the sequestration that Congress postponed as part of a fiscal cliff agreement. He said that military spending cuts would be a mistake that would weaken the country and make it vulnerable to attacks.
He also expressed his concerns about President Barack Obama’s commitment to fixing the debt ceiling.
“The president checked out. He checked out during the last debt ceiling debate,” Brown said. “If it wasn’t for the vice president and (Sen.) Mitch McConnell, it wouldn’t have gotten done.”
As for his future, Brown said that his decision not to run for John Kerry’s former Senate seat was based on his belief that he can do more for his state by staying in Massachusetts, talking to business leaders and making speeches that help to motivate people.
“I accepted a board of director position at a local business, it’s a national paper company,” he said in an interview after his speech. “I’ll be giving talks throughout the country, and I am negotiating with a few media agencies. I’ll know more and announce something in the upcoming week.”
Although Brown is not running in the upcoming special election to fill Kerry’s Senate seat, he didn’t rule out the possibility of a run for public office in the future.
“I’m going to continue to be active in some way, shape or form,” he said. “Whether that’s having people vote for me or me working with people who are going to be getting votes, I’m not sure yet.”
Brown added, “I need to recharge my batteries.”
Patrick Hoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.