By Julissa Richards ’20
An opportunity to see the governor make his 2018 State of the Union Address speech is a great way to kick off the new year, and that’s exactly how some students began their 2018.
On January 3, 2018, a selected group of students, along with Mr. Nermin Cecunjanin, the AP Government and Politics teacher, took a coach bus to the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.
“I was informed that some Midwood students had been invited to attend, and we happily accepted the gracious invitation,” said Mr. Cecunjanin.
In fact, it was the governor’s mother, Matilda Cuomo, who personally invited the Hornets.
Safia Hamouche ’18 was one of the few students who attended the trip and expressed her excitement.
She said, “I was definitely excited to go on the trip because it was a surreal experience and I knew I probably wouldn’t have one like it again. Being able to hear a governor’s live speech and actually understand it because of AP Gov made the experience even more educational and understandable.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo gave the 2018 State of the Union Address. In his speech, Governor Cuomo discussed key issues affecting New Yorkers and college students specifically.
One student who was particularly interested in this was Malik Pegues ‘18, who said, “I was most taken by the governor’s proposal to sue the federal government for taxing New York State, though it is in their right to do so.”
Pegues added, “The federal government cut the New York State budget, and I don’t understand where he is planning to get the money from.”
As of January 2, 2018, Governor Cuomo unveiled a total of 21 proposals for the 2018 State of the Union Address. The proposals included continuing to reduce the local property tax burden (sixth proposal), cutting off the recruitment pipeline to eradicate MS-13 (fourth proposal), and eliminating the minimum wage tip credit to strengthen economic justice in New York (fifth proposal).
The sixth proposal is to continue to reduce the local property tax burden by making the state’s county shared services panels permanent, since the average taxpayer pays two and a half times more in local property taxes than in income taxes. The governor plans on doing this by providing $225 million to match savings from county wide shared services initiative plans.
Cutting off the recruitment pipeline to eradicate MS-13, a gang that has been terrorizing Long Island, NY, is the fourth proposal. A five-point plan to promote after-school programs, job training, and support for abandoned minors, is being considered, as well as, the state police community assistance team partnering with local law enforcement to identify gang activity hot-spots.
Another proposal is eliminating the minimum wage tip credit to strengthen economic justice in New York (fifth proposal). The problem with tip credit is that it allows employers to pay employees lower than minimum wage. This primarily affects women and blacks in service industries and has also been linked to higher rates of sexual harassment.
In class, the students learned about multiple topics, such as the President’s State of the Union Address, so this trip gave students a chance to experience Governor Cuomo’s speech firsthand Mr. Cecunjanin said.
Pegues ‘18 said, “In class, we talked about eminent domain. It’s the government’s power to take private land, pay a ‘fair price’, and convert it into public land.” Pegues ‘18 was immediately reminded of this lesson when Governor Cuomo began talking about using eminent domain to build stadiums. The governor would take the land and resell it to private companies or the owners of sports teams.
Since Mr. Cecunjanin’s AP Government and Politics class has talked about a President’s constitutional obligation to deliver a State of the Union Speech, this trip was an opportunity for them to observe and judge it for themselves.
Mr. Cecunjanin also said, “It can be used as a political tool by a leader to put pressure on a legislature or even a court system that may not be ‘cooperating’ with his or her agenda,” he said before adding, “If invited, I would absolutely take my students again. They all shared with me how grateful they were to attend and how much they enjoyed the experience.”
One of those students was Aliza Hasan ’18 who said said, “The trip was definitely a once in a lifetime sort of opportunity that was worth the trip to Albany. It’s interesting to be able to actually see the people who represent you in government and listen to the speech. It was definitely a pleasure to be invited to such an important event.”
Even though the event was a class trip, the students had to dress in business-like attire, along with everyone else that went to the address.
Those that went on the trip left the school by about 6:15 in the morning before the address began, at 1:00 in the afternoon. The students returned at around 7:00 that night.