The past two months of my semester at Duke have been a political whirlwind. Arriving in 2009, I knew to an extent what going to school in a swing state would entail. I expected more ads, heftier campaigning, and a greater drive to cast my vote come November 6, 2012. I didn’t, however, anticipate the opportunities that were coming my way.
In late September, I drove to Charlotte, North Carolina with four of my classmates for the Democratic National Convention. The city was swarming with passionate volunteers, Delegates, musicians, and journalists.
In the weeks that followed, Jon Huntsman, contender for the Republican nomination, came to campus to discuss his views on foreign relations; and Karl Rove (Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to George W. Bush during his presidency) and Howard Dean (6-term Governor of Vermont) were invited to represent their parties in a discussion of the economy, foreign policy and the upcoming election. First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at neighboring school North Carolina Central University, encouraging students and Durham residents to get out the vote. Senator Kay Hagan and Bill Clinton came to Raleigh just two days before the election to do the same. I was absolutely star-struck.
But it wasn’t just about the political celebrities. Countless students volunteered their time to advocate for both candidates, register their peers to vote, and encourage students to be informed and invested. Several student organizations hosted informal debates where students represented both candidates, and political science professor Peter Feaver’s “Foreign Policy in the 2012 Election” class performed a full-fledged foreign policy debate before over 100 students as their midterm assessment.
On election night, hundreds of students gathered at the Sanford School for Public Policy for the Election Night Party, a blowout with screenings of every major news station as the election results came in. The building was buzzing.
These weren’t opportunities that were granted to me because I’d done anything special. All it took was an interest in the election and a listening ear to be in the loop about these exciting and vastly open opportunities in the greater Durham region.
Regardless of the election’s outcome, it was so exciting to see the school get so excited and inspired and impassioned. I was thrilled to watch my friends debate, volunteer, and exercise their rights as Americans and as informed voters. I will never forget this election season, and am grateful that every student will have the opportunity to experience one election cycle on this school’s campus in their four years at Duke!
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