Jill Biden, Whitmer talk education, environment with students in Lansing

Former second lady Jill Biden talks to a student at Impression 5 Museum in Lansing, March 10, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

Former second lady Jill Biden made a Michigan presidential primary day stop in Lansing on behalf of her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, to talk with a group of students. 

Members of the Youth Action Council — which include elementary through high school students — gathered at Impression Five Science Center laid out their interests in education, the environment and their hopes for the future as Jill Biden and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer listened.

Self-proclaimed future engineer, Tristen Holsinger, 11, told Biden that he and his peers on the council are interested in the environment and look forward to changing the world.

“It’s important to care about the environment,” Holsinger said. “If everyone works together, we can stop problems like diseases or icebergs melting.”

Holsinger said after the roundtable that he thinks all ages should be allowed to vote.

Biden has been a staple on the campaign trail and often speaks of her experience as a teacher interested in repairing the education system. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former second lady Jill Biden came to student at Impression 5 Museum in Lansing, March 10, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

Students on the Youth Action Council bumped elbows instead of shaking hands with Biden and Whitmer to protect against the coronavirus and then led them around the Think Tank at Impression 5 to talk about resources available at the museum.

From field trips to designing inventions, students talked about problems they enjoy solving, as well as the importance of girls in science and climate change. The students get to use the space six days a week and said it’s a fun stop to create and innovate after school.

Biden said she was impressed with the topics they brought up and she appreciates the confidence programs like the Youth Action Council gives students early on in life.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former second lady Jill Biden talk to a student at Impression 5 Museum in Lansing, March 10, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

Biden, who taught English in high schools for more than a decade before becoming a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, said increasing funding for schools and facilities like the Think Tank is important to reform the U.S. education system.

In response to Michigan native U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ handling of the department, Biden said, “There has to be a change in the trajectory of education in this country. It has to be focused on. It has to be of utmost importance.”  

DeVos, a West Michigan billionaire, is a historic supporter of school of choice and charter schools, and has fought increasing funding for public schools.

Joe Biden last week secured endorsements from Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and other high-ranking state politicians. Jill Biden said she is excited for the support in the state.

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Both Joe Biden and his chief Democratic rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have poured in work in the state, making several appearances in the past week. Whitmer, now a co-chair on the Biden campaign, said Michigan has become crucial to the presidential election.

“We’ve been saying all along, the road to the White House goes straight through the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said. “We have an opportunity to weigh in on this primary and make a big difference.”

Whitmer said the President Obama administration had Michigan’s back and rescued the state during the 2008 auto industry crisis — and now it’s time to have Biden’s back in the election.

Jill Biden agreed.

“I think the people of Michigan really know Joe Biden,” she said. “I think you know the character of the man and I think that’s what’s going to make a difference.”