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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Rockefeller Center, Dartmouth Political Union partner to host presidential candidate speaker series

The Path to the Presidency series invites candidates to campus to speak to students and community members about their policy goals.

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In anticipation of the 2024 New Hampshire presidential primary, the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Dartmouth Political Union are co-sponsoring the ongoing Path to the Presidency speaker series. Presidential candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties have been invited to share their policy visions and engage in conversations with the Dartmouth community. 

The series began in July 2023 with former Republican candidate Will Hurd, according to the Rockefeller Center website. Events have also featured Democratic candidates Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson and Republican candidates Asa Hutchinson, Chris Christie and Doug Burgum. Entrepreneur and Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy will speak on Jan. 17. 

According to Rockefeller Center program officer Taylor Pichette, the speakers must meet a set of criteria based on “our previous events and from others that are doing presidential [events].” Potential speakers are required to have formally declared their run for presidency, held prior office, polled well nationally or within different states and garnered media coverage. 

Pichette said that there were case-by-case exceptions to this criteria — namely Ramaswamy, who did not hold prior office but had polled well and garnered enough media coverage to be a serious contender. If candidates met all of the criteria, they were invited to speak as long as they did not espouse messages of “violence,” according to Pichette. 

Pichette said that the ultimate goal of the Path to Presidency series is to bring in “diverse messages [and] voices.”

“We want the students to be as informed as possible and bring in all the information and all the perspectives and let them make educated decisions for themselves,” Pichette said. 

DPU president Jessica Chiriboga ’24 attributed the diverse range of speakers to the student-led nature of the DPU.

“A lot of our event planning has to do with having a politically diverse team,” Chiriboga said. “With this diverse team, we’re able to bring a lot of … different interests to the table, and we [determine] … who are good speakers, and what are good types of events that would push our campus forward.”

Pichette noted that the circumstances for inviting each candidate vary, and the Rockefeller Center and the DPU alternate the task of reaching out to potential speakers depending on the situation.

“A lot of the [candidates] would have information up on their websites about their campaign contacts or their campaign coordinators,” Pichette said. “As they qualified by our standards, we wrote an official invitation to them, and then it was just about trying to get that into their hands.”

After that, the Rockefeller Center and the DPU work together to arrange the speakers’ travel to Dartmouth and craft a meaningful event for the Dartmouth community, according to DPU vice president Dylan Griffith ’25. 

“This is not the pretty work, but it’s the work that gets everything done,” Griffith said. 

After speakers accept the official invitations, the Rockefeller Center and the DPU begin organizing the logistics of their visits to campus. According to Rockefeller Center program officer Joanne Blais, this process includes finding an appropriately-sized venue for the speaker at Dartmouth and booking flights and hotel rooms. 

Blais said that the organizers book the Dartmouth Media Production Group in advance so that the events can be more accessible through livestream. Griffith added that livestreaming the events helps “memorialize what these events looked like.”

“[We livestream] for our posterity who might want to look back and see … what did a presidential candidate coming to New Hampshire in 2024 look like … [and] what were student groups doing to try and hear from them,” Griffith said.

Advertising for the events takes shape “through any means possible,” according to Rockefeller Center program officer Dvora Greenberg Koelling. This includes the Dartmouth community listserv, posters and the Rockefeller Center newsletter “This Week at Rocky,” according to Greenberg Koelling. 

Blais said that the Rockefeller Center tries to incorporate four components into all its programming.

“It doesn’t happen all the time, but our goal is to have a public program, a student engagement piece, a faculty engagement piece and a classroom visit,” Blais said. “We will craft a schedule that tries to have all four of those.”

Pichette said that the Rockefeller Center tells potential speakers in advance that their Path to the Presidency event cannot be a campaign event, and they must speak substantively about the “policies they actually stand for.” After the Path to the Presidency event, however, some candidates have chosen to “campaign around Hanover” or participate in “events or conversations with the DPU or the student groups,” according to Pichette. 

Griffith credited the success of the speaker series to the partnership between the Rockefeller Center and DPU. 

“Everyone brings different perspectives to the table, and ultimately that creates a better product and a better outcome at the end,” Griffith said. 

Members of the DPU often put questions together for the Path to the Presidency events, according to Griffith. He said that the DPU tries to “push the conversations that have already been had to a different level.”

“We’re looking to … create this environment where new ideas are being shared as well,” Griffith said. “We’ve asked follow-up questions to … ensure that our speakers are being consistent with what they’re saying.”

Chiriboga said that it is important to have these events because they advance “open dialogue.” Path to the Presidency events and DPU events “allow people to have an outlet to express their beliefs but do so in a way that’s respectful to other people,” according to Chiriboga. 

“[The] practice of respectful dialogue across difference is exactly what students are hopefully learning at a place like Dartmouth, and then they’re able to participate in public life and in the civic sphere and engage in that same practice of dialogue,” Chiriboga said. 

Pichette added that it is important for students to “get access to the information” and for the events to “empower the students to then go either vote the way they want or lead the way they want.”

“We should be involving our students in these broader conversations,” Pichette said. “The candidates are hearing from students individually and collectively about what we think is important, what we think are good issues or bad issues and what we think needs to be addressed.”

Greenberg Koelling said that the student reception to the speaker events has been “incredibly engaged.”

“I’ve been so proud of Dartmouth and the Dartmouth student body and the incredible, intellectual, challenging, but respectful questions that are asked of the speakers,” Greenberg Koelling said. “We engage in really brave questions but also very human questions.”