They were referred to in the past as CNN’s power couple. John Avlon is known for being a centrist who holds moderate political views, a CNN political analyst and Editor-in-Chief of the political news website, The Daily Beast. Avlon was accompanied by his wife, Margaret Hoover, who is a moderate Republican and the great-granddaughter of President Herbert Hoover, as well as a political commentator and best-selling author who writes about the future of the Republican Party and how internal reforms can better appeal to millennial voters.

At the 11th Annual Student Forum on Oct. 20, Avlon and Hoover took the stage of the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts for an evening of political banter and discourse about the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election.

According to Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Fitzpatrick ‘70, over 300 students, faculty and guests filled the seats awaiting the arrival of the two esteemed speakers.

Fitzpatrick planned and coordinated the event along with Professor of Visual and Performing Arts Dr. Philip Eliasoph.

“Professor Eliasoph usually contacts me in the spring with suggested speakers. Being so close to this important election, the topic and speakers seemed perfect,” said Fitzpatrick.

Eliasoph started the evening off by welcoming the panel of special guests, which included Hoover and Avlon, as well as Jesse Erickson ‘17, Riley Barrett ‘17 and Johnny Hirschauer ‘18. Before the panel began, Student Body President Zoë Ferranti ‘17 introduced the two speakers.

“This event will allow us to join in on a national conversation,” said Ferranti in her introductory remarks.

After being welcomed to the stage along with members of the Student Forum, Hoover and Avlon both gave their own opening statements.

“None of this is normal,” said Avlon in regards to the 2016 election.

Avlon went on to discuss the ways the presidential election has contrasted with all others in the past. “This election has tested our civic bonds in unique ways. By unique ways, I mean bad. All of this is different, but not better. The candidates’ negative ratings outweigh their positive ratings. That is unusual,” explained Avlon.

After wrapping up, Avlon introduced his other half.

Political commentator Margaret Hoover conversed with Riley Barrett '1, who participated in the panel along with two other students.

Political commentator Margaret Hoover conversed with Riley Barrett ‘1, who participated in the panel along with two other students.

 

“I’m sort of a different kind of Republican,” explained Hoover.

In her introduction, Hoover touched upon certain voting statistics regarding the millennial generation.

“30.5 million millennials will be eligible to vote in this election. Think about that for a minute.”

In her best-selling book, “American Individualism: How A New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party,” Hoover stressed the need to modernize the Republican party for this election in order to connect with the millennial generation.

College of Democrats member Catherine Pezzella ‘17 felt that the speakers did a great job of giving their real opinions on the election.

“Our special guests did not hold back on their views and I was glad that they were truly honest with the answers they gave to not only our student panel, but to our audience as well. I enjoyed how they brought up interesting ideas about how the Republican Party can change in order to adapt to our ever-changing society,” said Pezzella.

Throughout the evening and after the introductory segments, the speakers answered questions from student members on the panel.

When asked if women should be embarrassed to vote for Republican candidate, Donald Trump, Hoover replied with an equitable remark.

“No. Who am I to say they should be embarrassed? If you support Donald Trump, God Bless you, but you better have a reason. I do think it is important for your vote to be backed with some political reason,” Hoover said.

Hirschauer brought up the ever-growing argument of gay rights in combination with religious freedom. Hoover, an advocate and activist for gay rights, had a strong response.

“Today’s society frames it in a way that there is no way to balance religious freedom and protecting LGBT people from discrimination. There is a way and there are groups of citizens committed to being able to balance religious freedom and also protection for the LGBT community,” said Hoover.

When asked about how this Student Forum will inspire Fairfield students, Barrett, President of College Democrats, believed that the event will empower students to vote.

“The event helped empower students and helped them recognize their voting agency as an age group,” said Barrett.

One of the main discussion points of the night was about getting out and voting.

Whether you agree with the political adversaries of the presidential election or not, Hoover and Avlon want Fairfield students and millennials across the country to remember one thing.

“We have to be better than this. We have to think bigger than this. We have to be our best selves,” explained Avlon.

“Participate in the process because it matters,” added Avlon. “This is the world you are going to inherit.”

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