MWCC student Aaron Trudeau was among a select group of VIPs invited to join President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and other national leaders in Boston for the March 30 dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.
The 23-year-old Liberal Arts Biological Sciences major and Marine Corps veteran was one of 50 college students selected to attend after winning a national essay contest.
“Attending the event was a great honor,” said Trudeau, who wore his dress military uniform and received a personal “challenge coin” from Vice President Biden.
The interactive museum, located on the UMass Boston campus, is devoted to civic education. It features a life-size replica of the Senate chamber as well as a replica of the office Senator Kennedy occupied from 1962 until his death in 2009. The students viewed the outdoor ceremony on large screens while inside the Senate chamber.
“President Obama stopped in following the ceremony and spoke about how he was proud of the students who were selected and that he hopes we keep up the good work in our communities and school,” Trudeau said. After the president left, the vice president entered and officiated over a ceremonial senate session, before posing with students for photos. The students also had the opportunity to meet several senators, past and present.
“I was the last person to be able to talk to the vice president. He said ‘Marine,’ and we approached one another and shook hands and spoke for a minute, then took a personal picture. He said he had a coin for me and gave me his personal challenge coin which is a huge honor.”
Trudeau was encouraged to enter the essay contest by Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement and Fagan Forhan, Director of Experiential Learning Opportunities & Civic Engagement and Director of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.
Trudeau became a finalist after describing what community service meant to him during the first round of the essay contest.
“I wrote about how 9/11 impacted my life, and how it was the driving force behind me becoming a Marine. I then went on to talk about how I still felt I had much more to do for my country and community. I still feel and believe that I have a duty and an obligation to my community. It is my belief that without community service, our societies and communities would fall apart. It gives you a different perspective, allows you to be more knowledgeable and aware of the community around us, as well as bring us closer together as a community.”
Once he received word that he was a finalist, he was asked to explain why he wanted to attend the ceremony. Trudeau wrote that he wanted to gain greater insight into how the Senate operates and meet some of the nation’s leaders to enhance his understanding of how he can continue to make a difference in the future through public service.
. “Also, I said that the event itself would allow me to meet some of my nation’s leaders and be able to better my understanding on how I can impact my community and how I can continue to serve in public service in the future.”
Trudeau, who lives in Jaffrey, N.H. with his wife, Tasha, plans to continue on for a bachelor’s degree and then enlist in the Army to attend dental school and work as an Army dentist.
“We are truly honored to be able to have a student like Aaron represent us at this important event,” Forhan said. “Aaron is deeply involved in civic engagement efforts at the college, serving as a Students Serving Our Students (SOS) Peer Mentor, an officer in the Student Veterans Club, and continuing to give of his time and energies whenever and wherever he can.”
“Aaron’s positive and upbeat personality have served as a beacon for other students, and he has successfully moved into leadership roles in a very short time,” Forhan said. “Students across campus know Aaron, and that he will help out in any way possible. Aaron is the kind of student we learn from; who is not afraid to voice his opinion and offer potential solutions; who is eager to assist those in need in a way that serves as a hand up, not a hand out.”