Much has changed for Wayne Messam since he scored his first collegiate touchdown against the Clemson Tigers as a member of the Florida State Seminoles back in the early 1990s.
Over two decades later, the former wide receiver and current mayor of Miramar, Florida, is running for president. He made his first presidential campaign swing Monday through South Carolina, just over a week after he announced his bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination.
Here are three takeaways from his stop in Greenville, where he met with about 10 voters at the Growler Haus in the Village of West Greenville.
From the gridiron to the campaign trail
Messam acknowledged that he was in Clemson territory when addressing the South Carolina voters Monday.
“I know we have some Tigers here,” he said. “Forgive me for catching my first collegiate touchdown against Clemson.”
Messam said he loved playing in Death Valley and that he respects Clemson and the rivalry they have with his Seminoles.
He also said he was glad to see Clemson beat Alabama this past January in the College Football National Championship.
“I”m proud of the fact that Clemson has taken the mantle,” Messam said. It’s great to see.”
Forgiving student loan debt as an economic stimulant
Messam is the son of immigrant parents from Jamaica who chased “the American dream,” but he’s worried about what that dream looks like for the generation of tomorrow.
“I see that that ‘American dream’ is slipping away because we’re not solving the problems of today, we’re not planning for the future,” he said.
One big obstacle is the $1.5 trillion Americans owe in student in loan debt, he said.
“It’s crippling our economy,” Messam said. “It’s preventing individuals from investing in homes, it’s preventing them from investing in businesses, investing in their retirement.”
He proposes that the government forgive all that debt and pay it all off for everyone, which he thinks would work as an economic stimulant.
Messam proposes doing that by repealing the Trump tax cut, which he thinks would free up $2 trillion, he said.
“Everyone is talking about making higher education more affordable, but before we deal with that we have to deal with the $1.5 trillion,” Messam, said.
Another South Carolina stop
Messam’s visit makes him at least the eleventh Democratic candidate to swing through South Carolina ahead of the 2020 Presidential Election.
South Carolina will be the site of the first Southern primary in the Democratic race for president next February, making it a key player in the race, analysts say.
“I’m running to be the president,” Messam said, emphasizing “to be” when asked if he’d thought about any of the other candidates in the crowded field as people he’d be interested in joining as a running mate.
“I think that my vision, my passion, as a mayor of a major city in Florida, the only candidate from Florida, the only candidate from the South, I think that deserves to be heard in this race,” he said.”When folks say, ‘you don’t have a shot’... I’ve been defying the odds my entire life.”