The Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Jacob J. Lew, visited this university to have a conversation with students about currency redesign and more specifically, which woman should be featured on U.S. currency for the first time in 100 years.

The event, hosted by the School of Behavioral and Social Science (BSOS), the School of Public Policy and the College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU), attracted more than 60 students, most of whom were eager to voice their opinions about which inspirational woman should replace Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill.

The plan to redesign the currency was announced in June. The formal plan for the new bills will be approved by the end of this year, according to Lew.

A representative of the U.S. Treasury, who was at the event on Wednesday, said Lew’s visit to the campus is part of his bigger effort to promote dialogue and engagement with the public in order to receive diverse feedback concerning the currency redesign. Part of the treasury’s engagements with the public can be seen on Twitter, where users are actively sharing their views on who should be the next face of the ten-dollar bill using the hashtag #NewTen.

The two main objectives in the process of redesigning currency is making sure the design cannot be counterfeited and finding a person whose life mirrors the United States’ fundamental ideals of democracy, Lew said.

“We’re looking for images which can be reflected in pictures or holograms and things that show up on the currency. We want ideas about what it means to represent democracy,” he said. 

Colin Byrd, a senior majoring in sociology, said Harriet Tubman should be the new face of U.S. currency. She was courageous and reflects the struggles that America  still faces today, he said. 

“I would encourage people to think about the fact that there actually has been two women on U.S. currency,” Byrd said. “Thus far there has been no individual of color on currency female or male, so I think this maybe kills two birds with one stone.”

Kiese Hansen, a senior economics major and a member of the BSOS Dean’s Student Advisory board would also like to see Harriet Tubman. Another option, in her opinion, is Virginia Hall. Both of these women were born in Maryland.

Eileen Walsh, a freshman studying government and politics, as well as economics, thought differently.

“I actually do not think we should feature a woman on the ten-dollar bill yet,” Walsh said.

“I think there [are] a lot more places where a woman could be that more suitable and more respectful than on money. We’ve never had a woman on the moon, we’ve never had a woman in charge of the FBI, we’ve never had a woman president and we’ve never had a woman as the treasury’s secretary.”

Lew said the treasury has been considering changing other pieces of currency.

During the open conversation, one student brought up the advent of digital currency as a possible obstacle to maintaining people’s interest in physical currency.

Lew explained although the amount of paper currency as a percentage of all transactions is going down, the GDP is growing and the nominal amount of money of circulation is going up.

“Even though these other forms of transactions are making inroads, we have more and more paper money,” Lew said.

Other students raised concerns about the fate of Alexander Hamilton.

“I spend 10 hours a day sitting under a life-size portrait of Alexander Hamilton. As I’m making decisions and thinking, I’m looking right at that portrait and what he represents in terms of our history,” Lew said.

“I am, in no way, going to take away from the honor of Alexander Hamilton. How that’s going to be reflected in the design? That’s something that we’re still working on.”

Featured Photo Credit: Secretary of the Treasury, Jacob Lew, discusses changing the face on the $10 bill. (Gabriela Martinez/For the Bloc)

Gabriela Martinez is a communications graduate assistant at the College of Arts and Humanities and may be reached at gcmdavila@gmail.com

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