Patrick Houston '17, a special major in political science and environmental policy, introduced President Barack Obama at a rally held in his hometown in front of the Art Museum this afternoon.
"I'm especially thrilled to be here because so much about my story says I should not be here today," he began. Houston then described losing his parents at a young age and the "deep poverty" that he and his 11 siblings experienced before crediting the people around him for his presence on stage. He continued:
"It was the collaborative support of my fellow AmeriCorps volunteers in response to Hurricane Sandy that showed me the power of positive participation. It was my coworker who informed me about the Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania thanks to the Affordable Care Act that enabled me to to get health care for the first time in my life at the age of 21.
"It was my professors at Community College of Philadelphia eight blocks from here who challenged me to explore the depth of my intellectual capabilities. And it is in daily engagement with my classmates and mentors at Swarthmore College, who strive to bridge the gap between academics and action to tackle issues of social justice in my community. Finally, it is leaders who demonstrate sound moral judgment, the courage to hope for a brighter future, and the initiative to affect change in their communities who inspire me to be the change I want to see in the world."
CBS Philly reported on the event, saying Houston "was calm, confident and commanded the podium like it was something he was born to do. At times, he sounded like a young President Obama."
The Delaware County Daily Times profiles Houston and his journey that led him to community college and eventually to Swarthmore. Looking ahead, Houston says, "I believe social engagement starts now. I want to apply the intersection of academics, ideas, and communication. I want to learn how to put this learning into actions. And I know the work doesn’t end. It goes on into infinity." Another profile of Houston includes quotes from some of his siblings and his description of rehearsing the speech for the first time while in line to take the stage.
At Swarthmore, Houston is a Green Advisor and a member of the President's Sustainability Research Fellowship Program, a partnership of the College's Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the Office of Sustainability, and Environmental Studies.