Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, told a small group of honors students on Friday at the Tempe campus that the country’s political atmosphere is volatile but that he hopes compromises can be made.
Kyl served eight years in the House of Representatives and 18 in the Senate. During his last five years in Congress, he was the second-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate as Minority Whip. He was also elected as a Distinguished Fellow in Public Service in ASU’s College of Public Programs and an O’Connor Distinguished Scholar of Law and Public Service in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU.
Kyl discussed topics based on students’ questions, which ranged from nuclear sanctions on Iran to online gambling laws to the complicated relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.
He focused heavily on the polarized nature of the country and explained the challenges bringing both parties together in Congress.
“The country is divided ideologically,” he said. “Therefore its representatives are divided as well. Additionally, the media today puts everything in term of the left and the right. That forces both parties to never relax. Both parties are doing all they can to hurt the other.”
Kyl spoke on recent developments made on immigration reform and said he believes real progress can be made on those bills.
“Sometimes in politics you have to compromise to get the ball rolling,” he said. “It would be wise for Republicans to get this issue off the table. From the standpoint of the country at large (this issue) divides it. It’s a good thing to get it over with so I’m all for it.”
On a more personal note, Kyl discussed his past experience as a student in law school and the lessons he learned from that education.
“Something I took away from law school was the ability to critically think about an issue,” he said. “In the courtroom, you have to be accurate and precise. In politics, you can say whatever you want.”
Barrett, the Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs sat with the former senator during the event and said he hopes the students recognized the significance being able to speak with Kyl.
“It’s rare to meet a senator as a young person,” he said. “It was completely at (Kyl’s) instigation to chat informally with bright undergraduates.”
Social work junior Tatyana Sato said she was excited to meet a former congressional leader. She said she wants to take advantage of the opportunities the honors college extends to its students.
“When I saw the email, I signed up right away,” she said. “I wanted to check out what the honors college had to offer.”
Kyl is expected to host a similar event to meet with undergraduate students and discuss policy with them in the future.
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