Famous politicians, musicians bask in Hanover spotlight

by Lindsay Barnes | 9/10/04 5:00am

For a small college situated in the New Hampshire wilderness, Dartmouth has attracted many non-academic celebrities to campus, ranging from talented musical artists to sports legends and high-ranking politicians.

Popular occasions for celebrities to visit campus include the Commencement and Reunion period, when keynote speakers address the graduating class and other prominent figures receive honorary degrees from the College.

President Bill Clinton's Commencement address in 1995 is likely the most recent notable arrival of a public figure on the Hanover plain. He garnered a huge audience, leading Commencement planners to change the site of graduation ceremonies to a bigger location. Clinton praised the merits and importance of education in today's society in his address to the outgoing seniors.

"If you live in a wealthy country and you don't have an education, you are in trouble," he said. "We cannot walk away from our obligation to invest in the education of every American at every age."

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Leonard Bernstein and Walter Cronkite are other examples of the long list of prominent speakers who have graced Commencement platforms.

As for the arts, the Programming Board tries to bring at least one band to campus every term. Recent examples include Counting Crows, The Roots, Busta Rhymes and Ben Folds.

In the Primary Spotlight

Located in a state rooted in political tradition, Dartmouth has often been the host for political figures hoping to win their party's nomination by winning the New Hampshire primary.

Past candidates have delivered many a campaign promise at the College, and this election year has been no exception.

For the 2004 Democratic primary, political activity peaked as the date of the primary drew nearer. Hundreds of students went to rallies for Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Gen. Wesley Clark.

With the candidates also came a slew of celebrities stumping for their chosen candidates including songwriting legend Carole King, "Fahrenheit 9/11" director Michael Moore and even "Late Nite with Conan O'Brien" bandleader Max Weinberg. CNN also rolled into the Hop one afternoon to broadcast their daily debate show "Crossfire" featuring pundits Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

The campus was abuzz for weeks with political activity as student supporters staged rallies at Hanover intersections from dawn till dusk, bombarding on-coming traffic and pedestrians with homemade signs and vocal enthusiasm touting their candidate.

Politicians Frequent Dartmouth

Being in the spotlight during last fall's town meetings was not an unprecedented event in the College's political history.

Democratic candidates assembled in Spaulding Auditorium to voice opposition to President Reagan in January 1984, marking the first presidential debate at the College. Reagan, however, made his first appearance at the College in 1976 when students held anti-Reagan placards and grilled him about his beliefs in foreign aid and support for the South African government.

In 1992, Democrats Bill Clinton and Paul Tsongas, a Dartmouth graduate from the Class of 1962, made visits to the Upper Valley. Hundreds assembled in Alumni Hall to hear Clinton promise to become the "Education President," cut middle-class taxes, fight unyielding trade laws and introduce a comprehensive healthcare plan.

Students derided Republican candidate Pat Buchanan upon his 1992 visit by chanting anti-Buchanan slogans. Protesters sang a re-worded version of "This Old Man," which in one verse threatened Buchanan's life and in another charged, "Pat Buchanan he played three, he'll teach us to be Nazi."

In 2000, former Sen. Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore staged a televised debate in the Moore Theater in the Hopkins Center as television trucks flooded the streets of Hanover drawing massive crowds to Wheelock Street to watch the candidates arrive.

And even as this year's election is still very much in the air, one thing is for sure -- politicians will be back in Hanover in 2008 thanks to Dartmouth's being the intellectual capital of this "first in the nation" primary state.