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America’s future is front and center

Finan­cial inequality in the United States may have as much of a neg­a­tive impact on the economy as global cli­mate change has on the envi­ron­ment, said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

“America is now more unequal than we think it is,” Menino told an audi­ence of more than 150 at North­eastern University’s Blackman Audi­to­rium on Sunday for an all-​​day pro­gram designed in response to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“This is not a polit­ical state­ment,” he added. “This is a fact.”

The event — “Teach-​​In Sunday: Reclaiming Our Economy” — was spon­sored by the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties, the university’s Facing our Future Today Public Forum Series and The Boston Globe.

The pur­pose of the teach-​​in was to have a free and open dia­logue about the state of the economy and to dis­cuss solu­tions that would speed eco­nomic recovery and pro­mote oppor­tu­nity for all. North­eastern fac­ulty, com­mu­nity leaders and elected offi­cials, including Mass­a­chu­setts Gov. Deval Patrick, State Sen. Sonia Chang-​​Diaz and Boston City Coun­cilors Michael Ross and Tito Jackson, spoke at the event.

Patrick said stu­dents on col­lege cam­puses and invest­ment bankers at finan­cial insti­tu­tions have expressed sim­ilar sen­ti­ments in regard to the eco­nomic sta­bility of the nation.

“Ten days ago, I was at a town hall meeting at Goldman Sachs,” he explained. “They were asking them­selves if the Amer­ican Dream was up for grabs.”

Patrick, who referred to him­self as a “cap­i­talist, but not a market fun­da­men­talist,” believes in taking a community-​​based approach toward solving the eco­nomic crisis. His out­look was shaped by growing up in a single parent house­hold on Chicago’s South Side, where neigh­bors rou­tinely took on familial roles.

“It is up to all of us to do what we can to leave things better because we all have a stake in our common future,” he said. “If we turn to each other, rather than turn against each other, then there is not a single chal­lenge before us that is beyond our capacity to solve.”

Occupy Wall Street, which began as a series of demon­stra­tions in New York City’s Zuc­cotti Park on Sept. 17, has the poten­tial to shape the country’s land­scape, Coun­cilor Ross noted. As he put it, “We will look back on this period and see this move­ment through the same lens as social move­ments that changed the world.”

Michael Dukakis, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence at North­eastern, hoped that the teach-​​in could serve as an example for stu­dents and fac­ulty around the nation. “Our hope is that by starting at North­eastern, this will spread like wild­fire to cam­puses all over the country.”

As the event ended, a small group of stu­dents from North­eastern, Boston Uni­ver­sity and Har­vard Uni­ver­sity gath­ered on campus and set up tents, declaring their inten­tion to “occupy” the space for 48 hours in sup­port of the national movement.

– by Greg St. Martin

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