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Former Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Talks Politics, Economy With Students

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang held a virtual Q&A session for Penn State Altoona students Wednesday as part of the Commonwealth Campus’ Distinguished Speaker Series.

During his keynote address, he talked about his nonprofit organization, discussed the 2020 presidential election, and offered advice for young voters.

Yang rose to fame during his 2020 campaign run and brought attention to the rise of artificial intelligence and its impact on the economy. He also is a big supporter of a universal basic income (UBI). These beliefs have made Yang very popular among young voters and taken him across the country.

“When I started my company Venture for America, it brought me to places like Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Birmingham, and I started seeing more of the economy and realizing, ‘Wait a minute, things are actually changing in bigger and more fundamental ways than I had realized,'” he explained.

He also talked about the 2016 presidential race and how the nation’s economy played a big role in Trump’s surprising win.

“When I was on the East Coast, you had a particular vision of what was going on countrywide, but then when you actually live and work in these places you see something different,” Yang said. “And I saw that we had decimated millions of manufacturing jobs, and many of those communities never regained that energy or those opportunities. In 2016, Donald Trump wins, in large part because our economy has evolved in these fundamental ways, and no one’s really trying to address it, so how do we address it?”

Later in his speech, he talked about his own campaign and how his ideas on a universal basic income influenced his decision to join the race.

“No one was making a case for what was happening to the economy or for what solutions, like universal basic income,” he said. “And even then, I went around to my friends in technology and in Silicon Valley and asked, ‘Is anyone running for president on universal basic income?’ And no one was going to. So then I started sketching what it would mean to run for president with universal basic income.”

Yang continued his address with some advice for young people.

“You’re going to have these long careers and paths in front of you. It may be completely unclear what the next step will be,” he said. “It may be unclear even if the step you’re doing right now, how it’s going to relate to your eventual goals and ambitions. And I’m here to tell you, that is fine. Your standards for a step or an opportunity should not be whether they fir into your grand design, but the test should be whether you’re developing, whether you’re getting stronger and better at something.”

Yang stressed it’s important to put yourself in environments that challenge you and help you develop.

“It’s very hard when you’re young to learn in a vacuum,” Yang said. “So if you can find folks who are further down the path than you are, then that is something you should try and seek out, especially when you’re young.”

Yang also talked about the future and how the current generation of young people will change things in the future.

“Your generation, I believe, is going to be the one to lead us to a better place,” Yang stated. “I’ve met a lot of young people, and you have a tremendous sense of humanity and perspective. You know right from wrong, you want to make things better, and you’re fully awake…There is no hiding from the truth from you all.”

Naturally, he left the attendees with some words of wisdom.

“Use your independent values…because when you’re young, you take queues all the time. Now in 2020, you have this multitude of queues hitting you,” Yang said. “But the thing that makes us human is that we can make up our own minds, we can decide what’s right and wrong for ourselves. You should know it’s your opinion, you should know you believe in it. If you can make a few commitments in your life, it ends up strengthening you as an individual in a way that makes you capable of more.”

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About the Author

Charles Reinert

Charles Reinert is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. He's from Norristown, PA and enjoys a good slice of pepperoni pizza and a brisk fall afternoon. He can be found either yelling at the Eagles through the TV during football season or playing his guitar. If you have any questions for him or want to challenge him to a 1v1 on the basketball court, you can follow him on Twitter @charles_rein10 or email him at [email protected]

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