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On Nov. 6, the Penn community faces a stark choice between two competing visions for America’s future. That choice is clear — President Obama better represents our values and interests than Mitt Romney.

The economy is the central, defining issue of this campaign season, and President Obama has demonstrated the steady, pragmatic leadership we need to continue our recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The stimulus and auto rescue packages saved or created millions of jobs and prevented the recession from worsening. Under President Obama’s leadership, we have had 32 straight months of private sector job growth. No one is satisfied with the economy right now, but we are making steady progress and moving forward under President Obama.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s plan for the economy would ensure precisely the opposite. Romney and Ryan call for a 20% across-the-board reduction in taxes but refuse to specify how they would pay for this beyond eliminating some unnamed tax deductions. Numerous nonpartisan groups have examined this plan and found it to be mathematically impossible without adding trillions of dollars to the debt or slashing tax deductions, including the one for college tuition President Obama spearheaded. Romney and Ryan’s economic vision comes from the extreme fringes of the right wing. President Obama instead takes a balanced approach, recognizing the importance of deficit reduction but insisting that it not be done on the backs of the least fortunate among us.

All of us here at Penn recognize the importance of treating everyone fairly, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. President Obama has been a staunch advocate for women’s rights, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law and fighting for tougher legislation to combat pay inequity. President Obama also believes that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their own bodies. That’s why the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to pay for contraception and finally ends gender discrimination in setting insurance premiums. It’s also why he is committed to protecting a woman’s constitutional right to choose. President Obama has further recognized that now is the time to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. LGBT individuals serve openly and proudly in our nation’s armed forces, on an equal basis with every other American. President Obama also supports full marriage equality and has refused to enforce the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.

As committed as President Obama is to equal rights regardless of gender or sexual orientation, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan take the opposite view. Romney and Ryan opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and have no plans to deal with pay inequity. They both oppose a woman’s right to choose and have pledged to appoint only people who are opposed to Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court. Ryan even goes so far as to oppose abortion rights in cases of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother. Hardly a week goes by now without a Republican candidate proclaiming that rape is “a gift from God” or that “legitimate rape” is somehow distinct from other kinds of rape. Women face a clear choice in this election. Romney and Ryan have a similarly limited view of LGBT rights, with both promising to support a marriage amendment to the Constitution. Both also support the re-imposition of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. On these important issues of fundamental fairness, the contrast between the Romney-Ryan vision of restricted rights and President Obama’s vision of equal rights could not be clearer.

President Obama has made concrete progress on a whole host of other issues important to the Penn community. After Republicans in Congress blocked the DREAM Act, President Obama took action to lift the threat of deportation from young people in college or in the military who, through no fault of their own, were brought to this country as children. Comprehensive immigration reform will be a major initiative of President Obama’s second term. Mitt Romney, by contrast, opposes the DREAM Act as written and instead supports draconian immigration policies based on the Arizona model.

The president has also taken firm action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, imposing crippling sanctions and refusing to take any options off the table. Such strong leadership led Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to remark that “this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our [Israel’s] security more than anything that I can remember in the past.” Republican attacks on Democrats as weak on Israeli security are simply untrue. President Obama has been and will continue to be a staunch advocate for Israeli security and interests.

President Obama has also made higher education one of his administration’s top priorities, expanding the Pell Grant program to allow more Americans the opportunity to attend college. Working with Congressional Democrats, the president also took action to get the middlemen out of federal education loans, resulting in lower interest rates and greater savings for students. Furthermore, student loan repayments are now capped at 10% of monthly income, meaning that students can repay loans in more reasonable installments without accumulating additional debt. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan opposed all of these reforms. The Ryan Budget went so far as to propose large cuts in Pell Grants to help pay for additional tax cuts for the wealthiest. Unlike Mitt Romney, President Obama and the Democratic Party believe increasing access to higher education is a national priority.

Beyond the presidential contest, Pennsylvania also has several important down-ballot races. Moderate Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, a leader on Israeli security, is facing a challenge from the tea-party-backed Tom Smith, a coal millionaire running a self-funded campaign. A vote for Sen. Casey is a vote for a pragmatic, results-oriented voice in Washington. Unlike Tom Smith, Sen. Casey is willing to work with people of all parties to find common solutions. On the state level, Kathleen Kane is running to become the first female elected attorney general in Pennsylvania. A prosecutor from Scranton, Kane has a solid record and is committed to protecting the rights of all Pennsylvanians. With the long-term future of the voter ID law still in question, we need people like her representing our interests in Harrisburg.

The choice facing the Penn community on Nov. 6 could not be starker. The Republican Party has nominated a self-described “severe conservative” who has recently attempted to return to his moderate past. Which Mitt Romney would actually serve in the White House? If his vice-presidential nominee is any indication, Mitt Romney has chosen to cast his lot with the extreme fringe of the right wing. President Obama has a different vision for America, one in which all people have an equal opportunity for success. From women’s rights to national security to the economy, President Obama has provided strong leadership in line with our values. On Nov. 6, let’s stand united as a campus behind that vision and support Barack Obama for President, Bob Casey for senator, and Kathleen Kane for attorney general. See you at the polls!

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