On September 15, Goodwin College hosted “RICH STATE, POOR STATE: Connecticut Divided,” the second of three panel discussions in the Hartford Courant’s Key Issues Forum series. Following a reception in Goodwin’s River Room, audience members were treated to a passionate panel discussion about income inequality.
The lively event was moderated by Hartford Courant business columnist Dan Haar, who kept the panelists on topic and challenged their opinions surrounding an issue as complex as economic disparity. The panelists included Katie Kingsbury of The Boston Globe, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her editorials on restaurant worker wages; Enrique Torres, a Republican on Bridgeport’s city council, candidate for mayor, and owner of a restaurant/market; Susan B. Dunn, president and CEO of the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut; and Goodwin College’s own Gladys Mercado, single mother of three, current Human Services student, and staff member of U.S. Rep. John Larson.
“Tonight’s topic, Rich State, Poor State, speaks directly to issues faced by our students,” remarked Goodwin President Mark Scheinberg in his pre-discussion welcome. Approximately two-thirds of Goodwin students — those often termed “non-traditional” — find academic success after attempting school elsewhere or returning to college after years in the workforce.
Before formally opening the discussion, Courant Editor and Vice President Andrew Julien thanked the audience of approximately 200 for taking such an interest in an issue that is central to the future of both Connecticut and the nation. He thanked the event’s supporting organizations, which included Goodwin College, Leadership Greater Hartford, Comcast Business, Mercado Catering, and the Tribune Events Group.
“We find this a great way to engage with our audience,” Julien said. “And this is emerging as a central issue in the presidential race.”
The discussion included thoughtful — and, at times, conflicting — viewpoints on wealth disparity and the roles of government and business responsibility in providing for workers. Applause and occasional comments from audience members punctuated the panelists’ discussion.
“People are struggling every day,” Mercado told the audience. “Those who are brave enough to choose to pursue an education have been promised a better future.”
Mercado said that all she wants is a chance to pursue opportunities, but feels that in many cases none exist from the higher levels of wealth in the state. Mercado is currently a student at Goodwin College, pursuing a better life for herself and her family.
The next Key Issues Forum will take place at Goodwin this coming November.