ABINGTON, Pa. — Congressmember Madeleine Dean, Pennsylvania’s representative for the 4th District in Washington, D.C., encouraged Penn State Abington students to impact their communities by voting and participating in civic life. She appeared on campus through an invitation from the Student Government Association’s Committee on Governmental Affairs.
The event was the culmination of a semester’s worth of work for sophomore Fi Montany, who organized voter registration drives this fall.
“Having a recently re-elected representative come and talk to students about how we matter was absolutely amazing. Rep. Dean was extremely down to earth and very excited about starting a conversation with students about important topics,” said Montany, the director of the Committee on Governmental Affairs.
Dean explained to the students how she organically realized that she wanted to serve since she was raised in a family that often discussed current events. When she was 18, a friend suggested she run for the hyper-local role of committeeperson, campaigning door-to-door because she wanted to get involved.
"I tell that story to people your age because sometimes people open a door for you that might make a difference in the trajectory of your life. It gave me a fire, and the idea that someday I might run for office,” she said.
During her careers as a lawyer and teaching at the college level, the desire never waned.
“It was always inside me, this notion I’m going to serve someday. It's worth doing,” she said.
You and your classmates made the difference in this election.
—Madeleine Dean , Representative for Pennsylvania's 4th District
Dean said the last election cycle clearly demonstrated the difference one person’s vote makes, with the youth vote in Pennsylvania exceeding 30% and the national average at about 27%.
“The collective votes of young people made an extraordinary difference in the last election. You and your classmates made the difference in this election. We all have to be part of the solution,” she said.
She addressed the multitude of issues facing the nation including the aftermath of the global pandemic and gun violence.
"The epidemic of gun violence is a chronic, uniquely American problem, and it’s our responsibility to end it. We are not meeting the moment or the crisis, and we must turn this around. Being able to have cooperation between the parties is hard, but when it comes to people’s lives, we need to communicate,” she said.
Students asked Dean what she sees as the most intractable challenges in Congress.
“The growing indecency of conversations is an enormous problem. You need to gather your facts, build your argument, and talk about the issues. And Jan. 6 was shocking to our democracy. We had no idea how fragile democracy is or can be. The truth matters and our democracy matters, and that was the referendum of the last election,” she said.
Dean serves on the House Judiciary and Financial Services committees and on eight caucuses including gun violence and addiction and mental health. The 4th District includes most of Montgomery County and a sliver of Berks County.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 24 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.