Gertie Angel, Grade 9, Staff Writer
Joseph Biden, the 46th President of the United States, has been in the Oval Office for nearly a year. Biden was inaugurated at a time of national crisis. He assumed the presidency of a nation suffering from an economic calamity, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and intense political polarization.
While the entire nation waited with bated breath to see how this administration would differ from the last, High School of American Studies students were interviewed on their hopes and concerns for the then-newly-inaugurated president.
“I am definitely looking forward to an administration that keeps the well-being and best interest of the population at the forefront of their minds,” said Anya Mateu-Asbury, then a junior. “Hopefully, we will be able to hold the Biden Administration accountable and have them affect positive change.”
Other students had a more concerned outlook on the future of our nation. “I’m worried Biden will not take climate change as seriously as he did campaigning,” said Kathleen Halley-Segal, then a sophomore.
In this past year, Biden has both radically departed from the previous administration and upheld some of his predecessor’s policies. This year, Common Sense conducted follow-up interviews to see how people’s expectations and opinions had changed.
Reflecting on the past year, Halley-Segal said that she is, in fact, pleased with how the Biden administration is handling climate change: “I think Biden [is taking] climate change a lot more seriously than I expected him to,” she said. “Often I feel politicians use climate change as a talking point but do not implement real policies of change. The infrastructure bill, which is pushing for improvements like an electric grid system, has proven to me that [Biden] is pushing funds into making changes in the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.”
Halley-Segal did, however, say that she believed Biden “could be taking climate change more seriously by negotiating with Congress to emphasize more green proposals.”
Mateu-Asbury has mixed feelings about whether the administration has lived up to her expectations. On the one hand, she believes that the Reconciliation Bill is a great step forward for our nation: “Providing free childcare care and free community college to everyone and paid family leave … [will] really … help so many people,” she said. However, she critiques the bill as being “watered down,” and she believes that it may not be able to help as many people as Biden had wished. She does hold out hope that Biden will push the bill through the Senate noting that it would be “really amazing legislation for his administrative path and … could help a lot of people.”
Both Mateu-Asbury and Halley-Segal feel disappointed in the Biden Administration’s handling of the immigration policies left in place by the Trump administration. Halley-Segal noted that “Biden does not seem to be doing an adequate job to clean up the horrifying situation Trump and previous presidents have left him with” and Mateu-Asbury called the administration’s lack of concern for the immigration situation in America “shocking.” She is primarily upset that Biden will not repeal Title Forty-Two, an executive order which “allows migrants to be deported because of the pandemic, which is basically an excuse to deport people.”
The pandemic was also an issue at the forefront of HSAS students’ minds, including Laura Yam, then a junior, who was hopeful that the “new administration [would] control the pandemic so we [could] all get our lives back.”
Today, Halley-Segal gives Biden high marks for his handling of COVID: “I think Biden is doing a good job handling COVID,” she said. “[A]fter the Trump administration's COVID disaster, I think he has done a pretty good job distributing vaccinations and implementing stricter rules surrounding COVID.”
When comparing students’ opinions before and after President Biden took office, it becomes apparent that people have very mixed feelings about the struggles facing our country and the world today. Mateu-Asbury summed this up: “There's still a long way to go and … politicians are politicians, they’re not always going to have the best interests of the people in mind. I think at the forefront … they’re thinking about their careers.” She added that Biden, and all politicians, are always going to be concerned with how they can “put [themselves] and the administration in a positive light and keep everyone happy—and that's really impossible to do.”
President Biden was inaugurated in January 2021 amidst a pandemic and a polarizing political climate; HSAS students revisit their comments prior to his inauguration and add new insight.