New administration raises spirits and questions

Olson Houghton speaks about President Biden's historic cabinet in class. — Max Potter

As the nation acclimates to new federal leadership, students and faculty at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) shared their perspectives on the Biden administration’s diverse cabinet appointments, pandemic response, action on climate change, and reliance on executive orders.

President Joe Biden’s cabinet includes the most Latino appointees and the first Native American appointee. U.S. history teacher Brian Roesler sees this as a positive change, but believes that there is more work to be done.“It’s great to see, but I think that’s just a baseline…we need to see more policies and practices put in place,” he said.

History department chair Olsen Houghton agrees. “I feel for the first time that we’re going to have a cross-section of what the American population is,” he said. “There’s still a few places where you could be critical of his selection because his inner circle is still white male dominated, but only a very small percentage considering the cross-section.”

One of the top priorities for the new administration is continuing to manage the pandemic response, including the vaccine rollout. Junior Nick Pecararo is hoping for a return to normalcy. “I want COVID to get tackled the most. After Trump got demonized for how he handled the virus, I expect Biden to deal with it better, but we will see what happens,” he said.

Mr. Houghton emphasized the role that the federal government must play in managing the pandemic. “It’s been proven time and time again in our history: when there is a national emergency, we need the federal government to step in and play a role. I know people disagree on how they should do it, who should fund it. But the reality is, we need that structure and history has proved that,” he said.

Senior Rachel Salop is optimistic about the future because of the new measures the Biden Administration is taking to address the pandemic, such as implementing mask mandates. “We have nowhere to go but up, hopefully. As long as people start or continue following social distancing guidelines, I’m really hoping to see an improvement” she said.

The administration is also tackling climate change by taking measures such as appointing former Secretary of State John Kerry to the new position of Presidential Envoy for Climate. Mr. Houghton is in favor of such measures. “I grew up with a mad scientist as a father, so from the time I was eight years old, I was being told that I had to recycle. We were the first ones that I ever knew that got a solar panel on our house. I’ve been on board the whole time, it’s just common sense to save the environment for the future,” he said.

Rachel was impressed by the United States rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement.“I’m really passionate about the environment and I want to go into environmental law to fight for that kind of conservation. I thought it was really admirable that they did that so quickly,” she said.

However, not everyone agrees with all of President Biden’s actions. Nick said, “I like his idea about making it easier to become a citizen, but his canceling of the wall and the Keystone pipeline puts many out of jobs, which I don’t agree with.”

Mr. Roesler has some concern about the forty-two executive orders that President Biden has signed as of this week. “I don’t believe executive orders are the way that the country should be run,” he said. He added, “It’s a unique situation. I hope it doesn’t continue to go down from here. I’d much rather see us work through having Congress and a Senate that can get laws passed.”

Sophomore Maggie Bernard sees Vice President Kamala Harris’ victory as a big step towards progress. “Because of the fact that we have a Black woman as vice president, I hope we realize that we can also elect women into the presidency. Even though Kamala Harris’ victory is a huge step, I hope people can realize that you can go even further.”