Protesters, community attend forum with former U.S. leaders

Local News

Two former leaders of the United States visited Johnstown on Monday to discuss American politics, bipartisanship and the military.

Former Vice President Dick Chaney and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were the keynote speakers during a public forum Monday night held at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown campus.

Topics included relations with Russia, climate change and U.S. military intelligence and actions.

“We are in a new chapter of the cold war,” Panetta said about the current climate with Russia.

“It’s never perfect. You never have all the facts you’d like to have,” Chaney said of military intelligence.

Some people attended the forum, curious to hear about the tough decisions Chaney and Panetta made while in power.

“Unfortunately, not many students are politically active. Hopefully they voted.. brought us out… hear what they had to say,” said Stefan Aronsoi, a junior at UPJ.

“I loved how they blended what they dealt with as active politicians and what’s being dealt with now,” said Sam Miller, the UPJ student body president 

Others protested Chaney and Panetta’s visit.

“If any insult to veterans, it’s coming from Dick Chaney who is adamant about pushing these wars, but refused to be a part of our military,” said Larry Blalock, one of the protest organizers.

“Exploited our country into war, the preemptive war,” said Etta Albright, another protester.

Political Science Professor Dr. Ray Wrabley led the discussion. He said it was a great opportunity to teach the younger generation that there was a time in politics where both parties could work together.

“Our politics today is not what it’s always been,” Dr. Wrabley said.

“If it were easy to solve, it would have been solved,” said Cheney of the conflicts in Congress.

“If we are not dealing with the problems we have here at home, if all we’re doing is playing political war, political games and blaming each other; if that’s all we’re going to do, we are going to hurt our democracy for the future,” Panetta added.

Chaney was critical of President Donald Trump’s request to cut government spending by 5 percent, which would include military spending. Chaney said that there is already a lack of personnel and it would hurt military readiness.

Chaney added that he supported President Trump during the election because of his commitment to the military and he hopes Trump doesn’t go back on his campaign promise, now that Democrats hold power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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