Vance Lecture: Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

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Vance Lecture: Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

Alpin Yukseloglu 19

Alpin Yukseloglu 19

Alpin Yukseloglu 19

Alpin Yukseloglu, Campus Reporter

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In honor of Kent alumnus and former Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, Kent School annually holds Vance Lectures given by highly qualified individuals who speak about the “prevention and resolution of violent conflict,” explains Headmaster Father Schell. This year, Jeh Johnson, the former Secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama Administration from 2013-2017, visited to discuss immigration, the border between the United States and Mexico, and the state of politics in the United States.

Mr. Johnson and Fr. Schell first met during the KentPresents festival, a convention of world-class speakers held annually on Kent School’s campus.

“I listen very carefully to what I think people at Kent need to know, and I list who my friends know, and I try to match the two together,” says Father Schell. “There is no more timely issue than immigration today,” he remarks, “and with the government shutdown that’s going on right now, and the apparent impasse between President Trump and Congress, it seems particularly timely to have the former Secretary of Homeland Security come to Kent.”

Mr. Johnson opened his speech describing, and ultimately criticizing, the U.S. government shutdown.

“For three weeks now, large parts of your government have not been open for business. That means that personnel who are regarded as essential, Coast Guard, TSA, Customs, Border Patrol and more, are required to work without pay,” said Johnson. “Tomorrow, they are due to a paycheck, which they are not going to get because our government has yet to pass the necessary appropriation.”

He went on to indicate that after the weekend of January 5th, the U.S. will have had “the longest shutdown in the history of our government because our political leaders cannot get their act together to pass a budget.”

On the topic of immigration, Johnson pointed out the misdirection in the current attention surrounding the construction of a border wall.

“Some of you may not know this,” he says, “but there already is a wall on our southern border. Our government has built wall and fence in the places where it makes sense to do so.”

Furthermore, he emphasized that border security is important, but it is ultimately a band-aid solution.

“These [illegal immigrants] are desperate, and they count on being apprehended because they are desperate for a better life,” he explained. “You cannot convince people to not flee a burning building. It is a basic human calculation.”

Ultimately, Fr. Schell trusts that Johnson’s visit has served the purpose he had hoped it would: for Kent students to receive “first-hand knowledge of the issues our country is dealing with right now.”

Johnson reacted to his audience with equal positivity. “I’m impressed by the international diversity of this student body,” he notes. “That comes across right away.”

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