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President-to-president: St. Lawrence University student body leader participates in debt ceiling conference call with Obama

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CANTON — Deal or no deal?

That’s the question that more than 140 student body presidents across the country are trying to answer with their Do We Have a Deal Yet? social media campaign, established to express college students’ support for a quick, decisive solution to the federal debt ceiling impasse. Forty of these student body presidents, including John R. “Robby” Glass of St. Lawrence University’s Thelomathesian Society, participated in a half-hour conference call Tuesday afternoon with White House staff and, for a brief time, President Barack Obama.

“Obama joined us for about three minutes on the call. Basically, he was very excited about our support. He told us that nobody has a bigger stake in this than us,” said Mr. Glass, a rising junior and a government major from Cazenovia. “He’s also looking forward to working together on future issues. He’s very excited about our grassroots efforts and our ability to reach millions of students across the country.”

Mr. Glass said that the conference call focused more on general discussion than any definite promises, but Mr. Obama repeatedly has called for a balanced approach to the debt ceiling. If an agreement is not reached by Congress before Tuesday, the United States will no longer be able to borrow money, the Treasury Department has warned. Such a scenario could lead to a default and a downgrade in the country’s credit rating, which in turn could cause skyrocketing interest rates on student and other loans.

In a letter to President Obama and other political leaders, the Do We Have a Deal Yet? campaign warned politicians that “we already have too few jobs and too much debt” and “young people will shoulder the consequences of gridlock during a time that requires bold action.”

The nonpartisan student coalition was established only a few weeks ago in Washington, D.C., but already has garnered media attention from CNN, NPR and the Washington Post for its attempts to promote a compromise.

“The current debt ceiling in Washington is really going to affect our future,” Mr. Glass said. “We really want our leaders to stop thinking about the next election and start thinking about the next generation.”

Mr. Glass, who is spending his summer in the nation’s capital as part of a St. Lawrence-sponsored internship with the Curley Company, said that his work with the campaign has given him an opportunity to meet White House personnel and attend the president’s town hall meeting at the University of Maryland last Friday. As a member of the student coalition, he will be working to recruit more student body presidents to the campaign and continue with a media “op-ed blitz” in coming days.

“We’re really just focusing on raising the debt ceiling and creating a bold, balanced, and bipartisan plan,” he said.

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