Story by Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer, Video by Caroline Waterhouse | Broadcast Reporter
Robert “Beto” O’Rourke came to Baylor to speak at Common Grounds Friday afternoon and took individual pictures with hundreds of people afterward. When he walked on stage, the backyard full of students and locals cheered as if he were a musician.
Abel Castro is a senior from Waco. As someone originally from Honduras, he said he felt included and empowered.
“I was surpassed not only by the number of people there — I was expecting 80 and I think there were a few hundred — but also by the wide variety of people there in age and race and I’m sure varying levels of education,” Castro said.
O’Rourke cares about making college affordable, properly funding education, paying teachers a living wage, rewriting immigration law, affordable healthcare (particularly mental health) and a more efficient and better funded Veterans Affairs system.
In his speech, O’Rourke said every expert can’t understand why he would want be using the precious time leading up to the vote at universities.
“Students will decide this race,” O’Rourke said. “I wouldn’t spend — with 33 days left — my entire day with students if I didn’t feel otherwise.”
Before being whisked away by his team, he was took a few minutes to speak with The Lariat.
According to O’Rourke, experts tell him students don’t vote. He said that’s because candidates don’t show up and value them or listen to their concerns. He visited A&M this morning, last night he was at the University of Texas, and before that he went to University of Texas at San Antonio and Austin Community College. He said earlier in the campaign, he visited almost all of the major college campuses and community colleges, including McLennan Community College and even some high school campuses.
“We’re betting on students. The leadership they’ve already shown on the issues that matter most are inspiring to me and show me that this is where the action is,” O’Rourke said.
From a red state, O’Rourke seems to garner support from everywhere and nowhere. This is partially because he welcomes everyone.
“You cannot be too republican, Democrat, or independent — you are welcome into this campaign.” O’Rourke said in his speech.
Afterward, O’Rourke explained that no one can accomplish the goals for healthcare, immigration, affordability for higher education, rural class public school education or criminal justice reform without cooperation from both sides of the aisle.
“You name the issue, we don’t have to look at it through a partisan lens, we can just look at it as Americans who are going to have to find some common ground to get this done,” O’Rourke said. “There’s almost no goal that we talked about out there that we don’t all share. We just find different paths to get there. Can we find a path in common? Can we not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good?”
Specifically for Baylor students, O’Rourke said whether they vote for him or not, they can hold him accountable if he wins.
“I want the students at Baylor to also know this — not only have I continued to come back as a candidate, but as senator, I will come back for town hall meetings to be held accountable by those that I represent,” O’Rourke said. “So any question from anyone on any issue, any criticism, any idea, any guidance that will make us a better representative for this community in the Senate. Then when I come back, I want to answer to him and to everybody here. Let’s not divide on the differences anymore. Let’s come together.”
Castro said O’Rourke was very eloquent, but his message and authenticity are what made it great.
“I’ve been in America for 14 years now and I’m a legal resident but not a citizen, so hearing him speak was really empowering and amazing to me and knowing that there’s someone who’s really advocating for these changes in a way that seems very authentic and real is really inspiring and really encouraging,” Castro said.