Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar traveled to SVSU to court young voters and meet students on Wednesday, Nov. 1.
Thanedar was the second of three Democratic candidates running for governor scheduled to visit SVSU. Abdul El-Sayed visited campus last month, and Gretchen Whitmer will be visiting on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
Thanedar spoke at the invitation of SVSU’s chapter of College Democrats. He spoke to students assembled in the Student Life Programming Room and discussed his background, experience and policy positions before taking questions from the crowd.
During his talk, Thanedar emphasized his policies like student debt forgiveness and reduction of college tuition.
He also touted his business experience, arguing that he would be able to apply his entrepreneurial knowledge to Michigan and bring more economic dynamism and jobs to the state.
Thanedar struck a populist note at times, describing himself as a progressive and arguing that Michigan’s state politics have gone far to the right, in part due to corporate control over state legislators.
“The corporations haven’t been paying their fair share of taxes,” Thanedar said. “I want to change that, and I want to put the focus back on people. I want to hold the corporations accountable.”
Today an American citizen, successful entrepreneur and author with a doctorate in chemistry, Thanedar was born to a lower-class family in India. He feels that his experience of working at a young age to support his family before going on to earn multiple degrees and immigrating to the U.S. gives him a perspective and empathy that his competitors lack.
“If you look at my life, I grew up in poverty,” Thanedar said. “I worked as a janitor in high school and had several small jobs in college to help my family overcome poverty. … I am the only gubernatorial candidate who knows what it feels like to go to bed hungry and struggle for college costs.”
Thanedar’s background connected with many who attended his visit, including Jacquob Littlejohn, a third-year political science major and the president of the College Democrats.
“Mr. Thanedar exemplifies the classic American rags to riches story,” Littlejohn said. “Although we aren’t endorsing any candidate at this time, I feel that we would be well served by his grit, determination and intelligence in the Governor’s Mansion.”
Thanedar considers his status as a political outsider to be one of his bigger advantages, but he recognizes the skepticism that some may feel toward people with business backgrounds entering politics.
He emphasized that lack of ties to entrenched interests would be an advantage as governor.
“Not every business person is like Donald Trump or Rick Snyder,” Thanedar said. “If anything, Donald Trump is more the exception than the norm. He is more of a conman … but that doesn’t mean every outsider is a conman.”
Thanedar also feels that his educational background in chemistry gives him an edge over his opponents, and he argues that more people with STEM degrees should be in government.