WATCH | Howard University students quiz Deval Patrick on 2020 presidential run

2020 Democratic presidential candidate speaks with theGrio's Deputy Editor and Digital Host Natasha Alford along with a group of Howard University Students (Photo:

What keeps young Black Americans up at night? In this exclusive Q&A, presidential hopeful Deval Patrick sat down with students and faculty in the historic Howard University Founders Library to hear their concerns for the future.

The students grilled him on everything from  insecurity stemming from gun violence to racial bias in artificial intelligence, to which the former Massachusetts governor responded: “I do think more of us need to be writing code. I think generally about the whole innovation economy. We need to move past feeling victimized by it and own it, which is to say we need to shape our own future. And that means laying out a vision about where it is we want to go, not just what we don’t want to happen to us.”

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When it comes to gun violence, Patrick referred back to what he accomplished as governor. “I’ve been working on the issues of gun violence for a long time,” he recalls. “It is a national model, but it doesn’t work state by state, because if you can buy a case of guns in a neighboring state and drive them into [another] state what we need to do doesn’t go far enough.”

Many were kept awake by institutionalized racism, and wanted to hear how Patrick would help Black and Brown communities specifically. He revealed that believes the solution lies in getting to know each other better. “We don’t live integrated lives. Many of us don’t work in integrated settings. We don’t go to integrated schools. I’m not saying that all of those are the answers to everything, but we don’t have occasions to know each other anymore.”

The 2020 presidential candidate sees an opportunity for all young Americans to step outside their comfort zones. “One of things I’m interested in is a service component, and not volunteer. What can we pay people to do for a year or two that gives them the experience of working alongside people from other parts of the country they might not otherwise know?” Patrick asks the students. “There are lots of different ways and there are lots of unmet national needs.”

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Patrick also believes that this could be a solution to the rising student debt issue. “In addition to getting a livable wage and benefits while you’re in service, getting a year or two or whatever it is, of free tuition and fees for every year of service you do.”

Watch the full video below to hear Patrick’s goals for America’s future.