The mayor of Chicago said he thinks it is important for the government to increase investment in public education at an event Monday.
Rahm Emanuel talked about ways to improve the American education system and refine Chicago as a future global city at the Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership at Royce Hall. Emanuel’s speech was interrupted by several protesters who criticized him for closing public schools as mayor.
Event security and university police asked several of the protesters to leave the event. Although some left the event when prompted, UCPD detained others and brought them outside Royce Hall for questioning, said Michael Beck, UCLA administrative vice chancellor. Beck added UCPD arrested three individuals who were not affiliated with UCLA.
Patricia Turner, senior dean of the College of Letters and Science, said at the event that although the talk may elicit disagreements, the university will not allow protests that disrupt Emanuel and prevent him from communicating with the audience.
“Our challenge is to make sure that we make room for all perspectives, which includes the right to present speakers and programs, and the right to protest speech,” she said.
Emanuel said Chicago has one of the highest college graduation rates in the country and added that as automation replaces jobs he thinks more children will need to pursue college.
“A college degree is a passport in the 21st century,” he said.
Emanuel said the city tries to encourage innovation through its ThinkChicago program, which invites talented college students to tour companies, attend seminars and connect with entrepreneurs. He added the city incentivizes children to read books by giving free backpacks to children who read a certain number of books per week.
Emanuel said he thinks there need to be programs to improve access to higher education, such as community colleges and the GI Bill, which pays for veterans’ college education.
“No parent should have to take a second mortgage to give their children a chance at the American dream,” he said. “We must make the tough decision of investing for the future in this room … and help kids become better than where their parents started.”
Emanuel said Chicago is a diverse city that welcomes immigrants and individuals from around the country. He added the city’s Chicago Star Scholarship provides funding for undocumented individuals to attend community college.
“The journey of America is the journey of immigrants,” he said. “This is the story of tomorrow being better than today.”
Sam Beidokhti, a third-year political science student, said he agreed with Emanuel’s view on community college making higher education more accessible. He added attending community college helped him adjust to college life at UCLA.
“Coming to UCLA has been a big change with limitless infrastructure and guidance,” he said. “Education in community colleges is truly vital for families without financial backing.”
Emanuel said he is visiting colleges across the country to encourage students to work in Chicago, and added he hopes more students get involved in public service.
“No matter what your major is, may it be biology or mathematics, sometimes in life do public service and give something back,” he said.