LU journalism student joins White House briefing
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Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms held an HBCU-related briefing Thursday afternoon at the White House. She was later joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, who also fielded questions from attendees. The event was designed to provide HBCU journalism students an opportunity to ask questions relative to their academic and professional pursuits. Students from about 30 HBCUs attend either in-person or virtually – including one from LU.
Darianna McGee, a graduating senior journalism student at Lincoln, joined the briefing via Zoom from the MLK 114 media lab. After a brief introduction by Bottoms, a former Atlanta mayor, students were invited to ask questions.
The first question, concerning state legislation affecting HBCUs, came from a Florida A&M student. Bottoms stated that the Biden administration is very focused on HBCU legislation and funding.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris have been very intentional with funding for HBCUs,” said Bottoms. The Florida A&M alum said there is also a focus on the importance of smaller schools – not just the big ones. Another student asked about the historic under-funding of HBCUs.
Bottoms said HBCU funding is very important to the Biden-Harris administration. She noted that $6 billion financial support by the administration is creating current and future opportunities for partnerships with private industry. The next question came when Lincoln University’s journalism student was called to the virtual floor.
“How can HBCU students get better access to local and regional U.S. government internships?” asked McGee, who is currently a reporter and digital content manager for LU’s digital newspaper, the Clarion News.
Bottoms answered the soon-to-be LU grad by saying students need to stay connected through informative newsletters, alumni, and other resources. “Make sure you are getting our newsletters,” said Bottoms. Another student asked about the mental health needs and issues of HBCU students.
According to the public engagement advisor, the Biden administration is concerned with some of the current teen behavior trends. America’s teens, she said, are spending too much (non-academic) time online. Noting that she (Bottoms) has a son attending an HBCU, there is a focus on how to help students with mental health. Another question pointed toward a survey indicating 71 percent of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.
“The Biden-Harris administration is making policies to help everyday people,” Bottoms said. “We’re trying to make sure our policies are focused on people.” Following the answer, a special guest was introduced.
Enter Vice President Kamala Harris, the first vice president to graduate from an HBCU. Harris wasted no time telling attendees how proud she is of her Howard University roots and how important the educational experience should be for the journalism students attending the briefing.
“As a proud graduate of an HBCU, you have a special responsibility,” Harris said. “We are counting on you – we stand on broad shoulders.” The vice president said the Biden-Harris administration is putting funding into HBCU infrastructure, student debt, and other issues relevant to students. She talked about the importance of financial literacy, small businesses, and climate change.
She said HBCU journalism students have unique skills and abilities.
“Use your voices,” Harris said. “We need you!”
For McGee, being part of the briefing was a learning experience. She said it’s good to have federal officials with the same type of background. “Although we may feel that we’re being overlooked, there are people in the White House that come from the same background, ” McGee said. “And they’re pushing to make things happen for us.”