Rep. George Miller addresses students, faculty, staff and others during a town hall meeting at Saint Mary's College.

In remarks at a college he once attended, U.S. Rep George Miller, D-Martinez, highlighted recent Democratic efforts to make higher education more affordable and lamented that the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq bear some similarities to the Vietnam War's final years.

"Everyone knows we're leaving Iraq," Miller told more than 140 students, faculty and visitors at a Nov. 19 town forum in the Soda Center, adding, "But even after everyone knew we were leaving Vietnam, 21,000 more American soldiers lost their lives."

Miller, who voted against the Congressional authorization of force in Iraq in 2002 and has remained one of the war's most vocal Capitol Hill critics, indicated that he supports an immediate redeployment of troops within Iraq and a phased withdrawal from the country. He said the White House is preventing this change in strategy.

"This president doesn't have the courage to redeploy troops and is waiting for the next president," Miller said.

In addition to being a prominent anti-war House Democrat, the longtime Congressman who represents parts of Contra Costa and Solano counties is chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. He outlined many of his efforts to increase the opportunities for young people to get a quality education from kindergarten through college.

Brother President Ronald Gallagher commended Miller for recently securing passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act - which lowered interest rates on student loans and expanded Pell Grants for low-income students.

"We're happy you championed this bill and that you know how important higher education is to the future of this country," said Brother Ronald, who was a student at Saint Mary's at the same time as Miller.

Miller, whose father and grandfather are SMC graduates, transferred from Saint Mary's and later graduated from San Francisco State and UC Davis' law school.

Advocating further legislation that would forgive college loans for students who go into public service professions, Miller said society benefits from supporting young people who give back to their communities.

"It's imperative that we attract the best people into medicine, education, public-defense law and law enforcement, and that they don't turn away from these careers because of student loans," he said.

Today's civic-minded college students are already having an impact in Washington, Miller explained, bringing increased attention to environmental issues.

"Students of this nation take climate change more seriously than policymakers, and have emphasized that they want change," said Miller, advocating that Congress follow their lead by supporting alternative fuels and stricter automobile fuel efficiency standards.

"Instead of sending money to the Middle East, we should be sending money to the Midwest in support of greener energies like ethanol," he said.

-- John Grennan
Office of College Communications

Photo by Allyson Wiley '02

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