By KATE PIERCE
Saint Rose Television hosted Congressman Paul Tonko for special guest episodes on the 34th anniversary of his election to the state assembly.
Tonko is the representative from New York’s 20th congressional district, which encompasses the majority of the Capital District, including Albany, Troy and Schenectady.
The congressman was interviewed on two of SRTV’s segments: “Meet a Muslim” and “Knightly News.”
Amnah Dhalia, a freshman communications student, spearheaded the creation of and is the main host of the “Meet a Muslim” segment. She had reached out to Tonko after having spoken with him at an event at her high school.
Dhalia was joined by Marc Tabales, a sophomore psychology major with a clinical concentration. The two students asked Tonko a variety of questions concerning his work within government and his views on certain movements and political climates.
In his role as top democrat on the subcommittee of energy and commerce, Tonko said he works hard to “make certain that the air we breathe the water, we drink and beyond that the soil that we require are not contaminated and that they are made as pure as possible.”
“I am able to provide for policy and overview as it relates to the Clean Air Act and to the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
Tonko also spoke of the budget cuts proposed to the Environmental Protection Agency and how it would affect the subcommittee.
“Many of these policies affect not only our energy and environment outcomes but our public health and our economy, and our national security,” Tonko said.
After talking about his experience, Dhalia spoke of Tonko’s connection with the Muslim community and asked about his thoughts on the Muslim ban put forward by President Trump.
“I find it deplorable,” said Tonko. “I find it unacceptable. I think it’s important for the president of this country, no matter whom she or he may be, to reach out to the experts.”
Some of the experts that Tonko brought up were the the intelligence community, the foreign service members and law enforcement.
“If you’re proposing a ban, understand what it could do,” he said. “And, you know, to have religion as a test I think is unacceptable. It’s un-American, and immoral. It walks away from the principles of this nation.”
Tonko also said that denying refugees entrance into the country is reminiscent of the turning away of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.
The second interview of the day for the Knightly News segment was conducted by Kyle Pratt, a communications student and the Opinion editor of the Chronicle.
Pratt asked the congressman questions concerning New York, including his thoughts on the free tuition plan included in the state budget.
“I think any opportunity that the public sector can offer, any factors that the government can embrace that encourage and enable people to pursue their dreams and develop their skills and talents are important,” Tonko said.
He also connected the free tuition plan with many other state-based movements.
“New York, not uncharacteristically, has been in the leadership role many times over on many issues when you think about environmental causes, when you think about the suffragette movement being centered in Seneca Falls and so many efforts that have come out of New York, New York State, have become federal statutes is a feather in our cap,” Tonko said. “Our nation is oftentimes impacted by our leadership role here in New York, and we’re proud of that.”
Another subject brought up in the interview was the position of Democrats throughout the past election, specifically a race in Kansas in which Pratt said they had “an impressive showing” but lost. Pratt asked if it was indicative of a grassroots movement in the party.
“It tells us that we can all make a difference and that each vote matters. The public does get engaged, and sometimes it takes dramatic sorts of events that we’ve seen with this administration—refugee bans, executive orders that denounce our commitment to climate change,” Tonko said.
He also mentioned how the United States was one of the many countries of the world brought together for the Paris agreement and now the suggestion is that the nation will no longer have concern for climate change.
After shooting the interviews, Tonko asked each student in the room where they were from and made connections with places he has been and for which he serves as a representative.
“It’s encouraging to see interest on campus,” said Tonko. “Because it is often where activism is born.”
For full videos of each interview, you can visit the Saint Rose Television (SRTV) YouTube channel.