Riding the short bus to a Brighter Future

Who decided to turn a political rally into a pizza party? That’s exactly what happened Oct.15 at the Free Speech lawn, during a rally to save Bright Futures.

The same rally that featured local politicians like Senator Ron Klein (D-Delray) and Senator Ken Pruitt (R-Port St. Lucie) also showcased a DJ playing hip-hop and offered free pizza, drinks and ice cream. It was a 10-year-old’s birthday party with a political agenda.

Pruitt is driving, perhaps poetically, a short yellow school bus across Florida to gain support to keep Bright Futures the way it is. I like to think the bus symbolizes the disadvantages he faces, but I guess I’m an idealist.

It seems as if every year Bright Futures is in danger of being tinkered with one way or another. Bright Futures, which is funded by the lottery, pays most if not all tuition and expenses (depending on a student’s grades) for colleges, state universities and even private universities. This year, the cost is around $235 million and goes to benefit more than 100,000 students in Florida. So without Bright Futures, a lot of people’s opportunities are taken away.

Despite the fact that a change in Bright Futures could seriously affect a number of students, the majority of the students who came to the rally seemed to come for the free food. They huddled around a table adjacent to the stage and chatted with their friends while the future of the Florida education system was reduced to slogans and buzzwords.

Boca campus governor Michael Moore said that to save Bright Futures we must end the “college apathy to [voting].”

“Tell them to keep Bright Futures scholarship program intact,” Moore later said, “not only for you, but for your brothers and sisters and your children.”

The problem was, he omitted who we need to tell. Who is this malignant creature that dares threaten Bright Futures? Is it JEB!, our school president’s old boss? None of the speakers named an enemy to Bright Futures, and most of them downplayed political party allegiances. This was despite the fact that JEB! and the Republican-led House want to tinker with the program. And FAU president Frank Brogan even had the nerve to say, “It isn’t about Republicans, it isn’t about Democrats.” Yeah right, Frank.

One of the most used and abused catchphrases of the day was “the American Dream.” It seemed as if it was every other word out of Pruitt’s mouth. He started out by saying, “The American Dream is alive and well, and it’s alive and well right here at FAU.”

Sadly, it seemed more like the American Slumber from my perspective. Most of the attendees were too busy stuffing their face with pizza to realize they were truly being fed non-substantive propaganda.

Any opportunity that most speakers got, they were sure to use words like “bright” and “future.” They also made sure to push “the American Dream.” Empty statements fed to a politically slumbering crowd – what a combination!

To be fair, a few people did actually have something intelligent to say. Student Body President Ancel Pratt III, explained how Bright Futures actually keeps tuition down. He said that when tuition goes up, the state Legislature has to put more money into Bright Futures to cover the cost. As long as there is the Bright Futures program, tuition can’t go up too high because that would take more money away from the legislature. Without Bright Futures, Pratt told the crowd, there’s nothing to keep tuition from skyrocketing.

As the political pizza party came to a close, another slogan was tossed out: “Rally in Tally.” On March 17 there will be a rally in support of Bright Futures in Tallahassee. Student Government will round up buses and take anyone who is interested in going. I didn’t find out if they’re serving pizza in Tallahassee or not.