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Saint Anselm Engages With Election 2016

November 02, 2016

Chip Underhill
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7326 (Desk)

How do Catholics balance faith commitments, religion, and civic engagement? How are millennials engaging in politics? What do our faculty experts have to say about this historic election cycle? These questions have been asked and answered over the previous months during a series of academic lectures and panels, and with countless media appearances by Saint Anselm faculty members. 

Honors lecture with Prof. Tauna SiscoStudents gathered on September 28 for an Honors Lecture titled "#generations: Social Change and the Politics of Youth" given by Professor Tauna Sisco of the Sociology Department. Her lecture explored the term "generation" by delving into its construction and use in social science research, especially in contrast to previous generations, including Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the WWII or "Greatest Generation." Sisco discussed civic responsibility, voting, volunteerism, and political engagement, and presented her findings that millennials most closely resemble the WWII generation in their activism.  

In describing the millennial use of social media as a pathway for social activism and movements, Sisco remarked: "These social networks, and their wide use by the millennial generation allow for 'conscious movements' that often bridge the gap between local and global politics."

Faculty lead a "Catholic and Voting" panel discussionProfessor Bede Bidlack of the Theology Department moderated a panel discussion on October 6 entitled "Catholic and Voting." The panel included three faculty members: Father Benedict Guevin, O.S.B., professor of Theology; Dean Christine Gustafson, Associate Dean of Faculty and professor of Politics; and Dr. Tauna Sisco. Each panelist spoke for ten minutes, before taking questions from an audience of students, faculty and friends of the college.

Panelists discussed the obligations of Catholic voters who finds points of agreement and departure on all sides. Professor Sisco addressed this challenge for many voters. "Values are not lining up from the top down, and that is why there is a level of inner turmoil in for Catholics," she said. All three panelists stressed the importance of casting a vote, even when faced with a complex dilemma.

Father Benedict described the process as a "moral obligation as Catholics to vote under the virtue and to participate in civic life as much as we are able to." In navigating this difficult decision, Dean Gustafson suggests that with faith, prayer, and a healthy dose of humility, Catholics are called to hope and reason. She maintained that elections cannot be decided on a single issue, and encouraged all informed citizens to carefully contemplate any number of issues before voting.

Students have also taken the initiative in organizing discussion among their peers during this historic political moment in American history, from straw polls to debate watch parties and an Election Watch "Voter Lab" organized by the Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassadors.

On November 2, the Honors Colloquium Class will hold an open discussion titled "The 2016 Election and The Good Society" at 5:30 p.m. in the Living Learning Commons. The event is open to all students, and was designed by the class to provide a forum for open sharing of ideas on the election and the many voices in our democratic society.

College experts in related subjects are being called upon to analyze breaking political events at the same time that Saint Anselm students and faculty are reflecting on Catholic perspectives and generational voices in the election. Professor Elizabeth Ossoff and Assistant Professor Chris Galdieri have respectively contributed expertise this fall on voter behavior and election trends. Neil Levesque, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, continues his role as a regular commentator for media close to home and around the world.

Professor Ossoff, Chair of the Psychology Department, is a nationally-recognized observer of voter behavior. Especially during primary season in New Hampshire and certainly now with the general election a week away, Professor Ossoff is sought by such diverse media as Al Jazeera, The Los Angles Times, The Concord (N.H.) Monitor, and WTSN Radio of Dover, N.H. A recent treatise, "The Myth of the Rational Voter," explored the filters voters place upon themselves in the exercise of making political decisions. This view is addressed by this column in the Concord Monitor.

Assistant Professor Galdieri is an expert on the New Hampshire primary; at Saint Anselm, he teaches a course on the state's first-in the nation vote. Galdieri appears on media outlets from around the globe, with frequent appearances as a political analyst on WMUR-TV, the ABC affiliate in New Hampshire. When candidates stir the news cycle, Galdieri often comments, as in this recent appearance on Trump's statements about the outcome of the election.

As often (if not more) quoted than Professor Galdieri, Neil Levesque offers his insight and analysis of New Hampshire's critical role every four years in the political process as well as the state's position as a "swing state" with potential to change the balance of the U.S. Senate. Levesque is a "go-to" for media ranging from Greensboro, North Carolina and Lawrence, Massachusetts to every major U.S. television network, the Associated Press, Bloomberg Politics and When candidate activity prompts media to seek commentary from political experts, Levesque is frequently approached, as in this article on Reuters News Service.

This media coverage represents only a few of the hundreds of mentions of the college generated during the process of electing the next President of the United States. From the ABC News Presidential Primary Debates held here last winter and the Granite State Debates being broadcast from the NHIOP this week, to the campaign events and candidate appearances that take place almost daily on campus during the election cycle (which have featured every candidate from both parties, including nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump), Saint Anselm truly becomes "America's Classroom" every four years. As a result, opportunities for civic education and engagement in the Anselmian community abound; whether politics majors, ambassadors in the Kevin B. Harrington program, or casual observers of political news, students at Saint Anselm College are part of an internationally-recognized institution and player in the world of politics.

Maggie Lynch '17 contributed to this story.

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