By Malcolm Reid
A town hall at IOP.
By MALCOLM REID
For the first time, the Institute of Politics hosted a Harvard town hall this week, with our visiting fellows Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezinski (whose name gives my autocorrect an aneurysm). A brilliant idea on their part, this event allowed for students to converse with speakers in a way that few events thus far have. For this town hall, the issue was focused on student involvement in politics and public service. A most relevant topic indeed!
The forum started with an intro from our moderator, the director of polling over at the IOP followed by a welcome by President Drew Faust. That’s right, the elusive and mythical President Faust was in fact confirmed to be spotted at the forum! So for those of you who were wondering, she does in fact exist. An interesting aside, it never seems that she is in fact addressing the audience or us, she always seems to cater her speeches to a national global press. Still, it was pleasant to see her, and she always has notable things to say, whether it be about expecting others or other topics.
After that, Joe and Mika jogged onto stage and after a minute or two of playful banter, they jumped right in. They were shown pictures that the student participants chose beforehand of how we would represent 2017’s political climate to future viewers. My personal favorite was one of Michael from The Office cringing (but this is isn’t exactly impartial; it was mine). It led our conversation in a very particular direction, as students voiced their anxieties about the government.
Now, unsurprisingly, this mostly involved references to Trump and the administration’s approach to certain issues which many students feel strongly about. Whether it be about immigration, or healthcare, these students were clearly nervous about their causes being undermined. What struck me as a poignant remark however, was one student’s complaint that conservatives, or specifically Trump’s voters, won’t just go away. Both Joe and Mika responded by noting that these people matter, but I feel that there wasn’t an understanding in the general audience that these are people who are afraid, just like the students in the forum. And by treating them as insignificant and foolish, you can only force them into a corner, and if you force people into a corner they’ll fight like wolves. But I think this town hall style event will be good exposure for students to get exposure to other opinions, and students are eager to get involved, so I think once we continue with this we have good prospects for the future. And it was amusing to see people literally throwing the microphone around the room, it made it feel so informal yet very well structured. Almost as amusing as the reactions Mika and Joe had to learning there were Republicans in the room.
But it was a civil and productive event, and informative! For Joe and Mika, what was key was just being involved, trying to understand the other side of the aisle, and not being afraid to speak up could help fix the political rift. And besides this wisdom, an impromptu hug from Joe Scarborough certainly made the event memorable on my part. And I just learned he put a picture of it on his Instagram! See – that’s why you should go to these events – you never know what will happen!
If my dear readers take very few things away, the importance for political involvement and the exciting opportunity presented by these town halls should be among those things. Of course, staying up to date with events helps, so if you’re among that blessed few students able to get up early in the morning, check out Morning Joe and its contemporaries! I’ll see you all at the next exciting and controversial event on campus!
Malcolm Reid (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be thinking about the immortalization of that Scarborough Hug on social media all week.