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Who needs D.C. pundits? Hear what these Idaho students have to say about the State of the Union.

(From top to bottom right) Grace Brighten, Marcos Miranda-Chavez and Kyle McMorrow
NPR, Grace Brighten, Marcos Miranda-Chavez, Kyle McMorrow
(From top to bottom right) Grace Brighten, Marcos Miranda-Chavez and Kyle McMorrow

“There's a reason I picked these two to come and have this conversation.”

It wasn’t just inside-the-beltway pundits who were deconstructing Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. In fact, two Boise High Schoolstudents who are diving into domestic and world politics during their senior year, were also listening intently to President Joseph Biden’s address to Congress and the nation. But instead of politics, their big takeaways were more “kitchen table” issues.
“We need to focus on Big Pharma in general and corporations in general, making them pay their fair share, making sure that they charge fair prices,” said 18-year-old Grace Brighten, a senior at Boise High.
“And then there was how he thinks that it all starts with the infrastructure,” said 18-year-old Marcos Miranda-Chavez, also a senior. “I think if we fund more schools, and more kids are educated and there's more programs for kids, that does correspond with less violence,”
Brighten and Miranda Chavez, along with instructor Kyle McMorrow visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to share their own insights to what is perhaps the highest profile event on this year’s political calendar.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. I'm George Prentice. Good morning. President Joe Biden stood before Congress and the nation last evening to deliver his State of the Union. And throughout this broadcast, we're taking a closer listen to issues that emerged from that address. And while there are plenty of analysts across the media spectrum this morning, we thought we would spend some time listening to some fresh perspectives…some new voices. Grace Brighten is here as well as Marcos Chavez- Miranda. Good morning to you both.

GRACE BRIGHTEN: Good morning.


PRENTICE: Grace, tell me about you. You go to Boise High?

BRIGHTEN: Yes. I'm a senior at Boise High and I'm 18 years old.

PRENTICE: And Marcos,

CHAVEZ-MIRANDA: 18, and a Senior at Boise High as well.

PRENTICE: And tell me a little bit about your studies. And in particular, I'm interested in your studies involving history and in particular, American history.

BRIGHTEN: Well, last year I took AP US American History, which is a really interesting introduction to basically all of American history, starting back in pre-colonial times and coming up until, I think, 2015t, which was just a good basis for my understanding of government. And then this year, especially last semester when we did a deep dive into American government, not just history, but American government in particular. It was a really interesting fusion of those two things where I could see the comparisons between history and our government today and how it's formed and how it's interacted. And then the semester with comparative government, it's really awesome to be able to compare it to governments from around the world. Like my parents are British. And so learning about the British government like we will in the future and being able to compare it to all the other governments that we've learned about as well as the US government, which I know the most about, is going to be a really interesting comparison to make it. I'm super excited about it.

PRENTICE: Marcos I guess what's really exciting me is the level of engagement among your colleagues.

CHAVEZ-MIRANDA: Absolutely. That's something we talk about every day. And at Boise High, there's a lot of student activism and there's a lot of political participation in a civil society. And so, it's very well known around the school., So, those are definitely big conversations that we have on a day-to-day basis, both in class and out of class.

PRENTICE: Grace Brighten What in last night's State of the Union caught your interest?

BRIGHTEN: I was particularly interested by President Biden's comments on corporations and the taxes that they pay, as well as Big Pharma in particular, more specifically the price of insulin, and how it's 10 to $13 to manufacture. But then the price balloons from there. There are incredible price hikes that are really affecting middle- and low-class Americans that need it. And something that I really tied into is that it's not just insulin. It's all other medications that don't have a generic alternative. It makes me think that in the next couple of years, we need to focus on Big Pharma in general and corporations in general, making them pay their fair share, making sure that they charge fair prices.

PRENTICE: Marcos, what caught your interest last evening?

CHAVEZ-MIRANDA: He talked about a lot of different topics, and one of the ones that caught my attention was the fact about employment and the economy, specifically just two weeks ago that we had close to 500,000 new jobs added. And he touched on inflation. So, prices have been coming down. I would have liked to see that conversation go into like the college discussion. And I think that eventually, because colleges have to charge tuition based on what they think their costs are going to be. So, I think that we should see college prices to tuition prices to come down in the near future. And then the last thing was the infrastructure and how he thinks that it all starts with the infrastructure, which I agree with. Absolutely, because I think if we fund more schools, and more kids are educated and there's more programs for kids to be able to do, that does correspond with less violenceand just higher education rates and more innovation.

PRENTICE: So interesting that while other pundits may point to the politics of last evening, the things that jumped out for you were education, and student debt. Grace, you talked about the high price of pharmaceuticals, and these are kitchen table issues that I think a lot of people could relate to.

BRIGHTEN: Yeah, I think it was really interesting. This year, especially Biden repeated some of the things that he said last year, like I watched back last year's State of the Union, just to get an idea of what this would be like. And there were multiple things that he repeated. One of them was capitalism without competition is extortion, which is putting into words a lot of the sentiments that I've been having for the last couple of years, learning more about the economy and how the government interacts with it. And I also liked his jokes that he made throughout it. Marcos and I were on the phone earlier, talking about that and how we both enjoyed those.

PRENTICE: Yeah, it was he did counterpunch a few times. He went off script which we. don't see in States of the Union. And I think it was it was a unique evening. Let's bring in Kyle McMorrow, who is an instructor at Boise High. Mr. McMorrow, good morning to you.

KYLE MCMORROW: Good morning, George.

PRENTICE: Talk to me a little bit about the engagement among your students. I'm already extremely impressed.

MCMORROW: Grace and Marcos are just a couple of the students who are extremely interested and engaged in in the political world around them. Boise High is a great place to teach because of the interest in what is happening, and then also the interest in wanting to take some of these ideas that President Biden spoke of and apply those and figure out the practical applications of how to actually make this happen. They are on the move and definitely going to be part of the process moving forward.

PRENTICE: I think we're busting a few myths here this morning as far as not only the level of engagement, but how impressive the application of some of these issues may be. That,in spite of the fact that there are some down the street who are not thrilled about… and may not even welcome anyone under the age of 18 to testify.

MCMORROW: Yeah, I've been in committee meetings just throughout the years and a lot of times I see that students are testifying and the representatives and senators at our legislator are always very impressed. I've seen students on both sides of the aisle present and participate in that process. So, I was a little surprised when when some of the rhetoric came out about students testifying. And I hope that our capital can be a place where everybody can have a voice, and especially for those under the 18 under the age of 18 who are often struggling to have a voice in politics when it comes to not quite being the age to vote, but hopefully they can they can have their concerns or they can voice their concerns and be part of the process that makes the United States and makes our State of Idaho so great.

PRENTICE: Well, I would be remiss if I did not ask my go to question, and that is, ‘What is the big dream?’ Marcos, what's the big dream for you?

CHAVEZ-MIRANDA: I'd like to go to med school and become a medical doctor one day.

BRIGHTEN: Well, eventually I'd like to end up living in a cabin in the forest somewhere, just like reading all day. But until then, I think I want to go into environmental, environmental science and potentially policy just because of the importance of action at this point in time with climate change and everything going on there.

MCMORROW: There's a reason I picked these two to come and have this conversation.And my big dream is to be like these two when I when I grow up.

PRENTICE: He is Kyle McMorrow, known as Mr. McMorrow, of course, to his to his students. And there is Grace Brighten. And there is Marcos Chavez- Miranda. And to all of you, great good luck. Thank you so very much. And thanks for giving us some time this morning.

MCMORROW: Thank you, George.

BRIGHTEN: Thank you.


Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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