For almost three hours last night, Democrats, Republicans and independents set aside their political differences in the name of bipartisanship and civil discussion.
More than 100 students and community members gathered in Huntsman Hall for the second annual State of the Union viewing party. The event, sponsored by both the Penn Democrats and College Republicans, gave students of varying political views the opportunity to watch President Barack Obama’s address, followed by informal discussion.
Wharton junior and College Republicans President Laura Brown — who is a Daily Pennsylvanian staff member — said, “One of our overall goals was to foster bipartisanship on campus.”
College junior and Penn Democrats President Andrew Silverstein also cited unity as a key motive for organizing the event.
“Our aim is to provide a friendly setting for students of all beliefs to watch the president address the nation and provide a blueprint for the future,” Silverstein said.
As Obama covered key issues including military success, job creation, tax reform, education and foreign relations, among others, various audience members clearly but politely verbalized their support or disapproval. When Obama mentioned particularly controversial issues in his speech, audience members clapped in approval or groaned in dissent.
Silverstein thought the topics Obama covered gave the event particular appeal.
“A lot of what he said really matters to the student demographic,” he said.
About 40 attendees stayed behind at the conclusion of Obama’s address for a moderated conversation.
Students from both ends of the political spectrum analyzed the contents of Obama’s speech. Some praised his tact and clear goals while others criticized his contradictions and campaign-based motivation.
According to Brown, “Discussion was much more lively than last year.”
Although participants engaged in substantial cross-debate, the mood never verged on antagonistic.
College freshman Gabe Delaney was impressed by the overall civility.
“I’m a big fan of bipartisanship,” he said. “If it’s impossible in the halls of Congress, it better be possible in the halls of Huntsman.”
Community member and Iraq War veteran Robert Allen Mansfield, who is running for the Senate as a Republican in Pennsylvania’s second congressional district — in which Penn is located — also attended the viewing party.
“I just wanted to meet some of the college students and get an idea of what’s important to them,” he said.
Silverstein thought the event was a great success.
“We want to hold Penn to a higher standard than partisanship,” he said. “I think [this event] speaks to the enthusiasm on Penn’s campus.”
Both Brown and Silverstein intend to continue the pursuit of bipartisanship on campus and plan on organizing similar events throughout the year.
Delaney agrees that political civility is key to progress.
“Everyone here loves their country,” he said. “And everyone wants it to improve.”