Your Giving in Action: A Front-Row Seat to Presidential Politics
On their January 2016 field program—“Race for the White House: A Front Row Seat to Presidential Politics”—Principia College students enjoyed extraordinary interaction in Iowa and New Hampshire with presidential primary candidates from across the political spectrum. During the two-week program, students were literally a few feet away from and asking questions of most of the candidates on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush posed with the group for photos at rallies; Marco Rubio took questions at a town hall meeting; Mike Huckabee mentioned the group by name at a campaign stop; and students engaged with Ben Carson during a standing-room-only event.
Attending symposiums with party officials, scholars, and political activists; conducting interviews; observing citizen behavior—all of these activities deepened students' understanding of the unique role of these two states in the selection of the next President of the United States. Meanwhile, College friends and followers around the world enjoyed glimpses of the group’s activities through students’ daily posts on Facebook, Twitter, and the program’s blog.
Campaign Venues and Private Sessions
Braving crowded venues—coffee shops, school cafeterias, and general stores—was key to catching up with as many candidates as possible. In all, the group saw 11 of the candidates in person and met with individuals close to the candidates.
In contrast to the public events, private sessions with campaign officials, political activists, journalists, pollsters, and faculty from local universities provided opportunities to dive deep into the history and nature of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
Our students are unlikely to ever forget this type of firsthand exposure to the United States’ unique, grassroots candidate nomination process. Such lasting learning and memories are made possible largely by donor contributions, which allow Principia to create handwrought opportunities beyond the classroom.
Moments Off the Campaign Trail
The group connected with Principia alums in both states, attending church and enjoying lunch and conversation with church members. David and Kimberley Furbush (both C’83) treated the group to ice cream after a Wednesday testimony meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. In New Hampshire, the group attended the historic Christian Science Church in Concord and toured the edifice with Dawn Marshall (C'76).
Pollyann Winslow (C’78) hosted the group for dinner in her home, complete with a cake decorated to celebrate 100 years of New Hampshire’s “First in the Nation Primary” status. Mrs. Winslow invited a New Hampshire state senator and local officials and campaign workers for an evening of conversation. Parents of one of the program participants welcomed the group to dinner at their home as well.
“The students took full advantage of every opportunity we had during our travels,” says political science professor Dr. Brian Roberts, who led the field program. “I couldn’t be more pleased with their level of engagement. Between the candidate events and forums with news editors, academicians, activists, party officials, and campaign chairs/workers, we all have a much more informed understanding of presidential campaigns and the key role Iowa and New Hampshire play in the presidential nominating process. These unique, experiential learning moments have transformed how we will approach the analysis of presidential elections.”