Yang was invited to Penn as part of the annual Case Competition for Wharton Undergraduates in Public Policy. Before addressing Penn students and faculty, Yang sat down with the undergraduate Case Competition participants, where they discussed topics such as his presidential campaign. Yang later spoke to the crowd about his current views of the political system.
Yang also sat down with The Daily Pennsylvanian about the importance of speaking at a school like Penn. He said Penn was “one of the greatest educational institutions in the country where the students [will] shape the future,” adding that he wanted to take the opportunity to “prepare” Penn students to move the world in a positive direction.
Speaking to Case Competition participants, Yang said that his background as an entrepreneur made him see his campaign as a “startup with massive advantages.” He said that although he did not see himself winning the presidential race, he was committed to “months and months of hustling” to have his ideas — such as universal basic income — heard on the debate stage.
At the larger event preceding the competition, Yang discussed how he observed that young people were ending up in the same major metropolitan areas and performing the same jobs.
“If we could get young people to head to cities that were losing talent, and they could grow companies and jobs, that could be the answer,” Yang told the audience, adding that this work led him to create Venture for America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to having recent graduates build businesses in less popular cities.
While working on Venture for America, Yang said he was inspired to take action once he saw the effect of lost jobs in the Midwest and heard from colleagues in Silicon Valley that artificial intelligence could have an impact on the job market.
“Someone should raise the alarm and let folks know that we’re going to be automating away a lot of jobs, so what gave rise to Trumpism is probably going to get worse,” Yang said, adding that this led him to announce his presidential campaign in 2017.
Described as a long-shot bid, Yang’s campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination rallied support from young voters. After he dropped out of the race in early 2020, he endorsed Joe Biden’s ticket because he believed their campaign aligned with his goals of a universal basic income.
Reflecting on his experience as a candidate, Yang said he believes a lot of the issues in politics stem from America’s two-party system.
“The two-party system is not designed to actually fulfill policy goals, or deliver, or compromise. It is designed now to polarize us,” Yang said.
In order to combat these issues, Yang said he believes that eliminating primary elections and having rank-choice voting are the next steps for American politics.
“My new mission in life is to turn off the party primaries so that our lawmakers can actually be rewarded for doing the right thing as opposed to doing the unreasonable thing,” Yang said, as seen in his creation of a new centrist political party entitled the Forward Party.
According to College junior and WUPP President Joey Jung, this year was the first, in-person annual Case Competition. Student groups proposed a policy initiative to a group of distinguished judges, including former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
When asked why Yang was chosen as the guest speaker for the event, Jung said that it was important to have a “high-profile speaker” in order to bring “school-wide awareness” to the WUPP Case Competition.