By Elena Blanco and Enno Behrens, Summer Times Staff Writers

Exeter Summer students last week got front-row seats (around the Harkness Table) for the 2020 battle for the White House. 

Representatives from the campaigns of three U.S. Democratic Primary candidates for President visited Pam Parris’s “Exploring American Culture” class on Saturday to discuss the election seven months before New Hampshire’s first-in-the nation Democratic primary to choose a standard-bearer to challenge President Trump.

Promoting the candidacies of Senators Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, were Kate Di Pasquale for Ms. Harris, Bryanna Murphy for Mr. Booker and Jackie Rothmeier with intern Nate Hayes for Ms. Warren. The event was led by Honorable Jacqueline Walker Weatherspoon. Mrs. Weatherspoon started talking about how she got into politics and what she did in her life already. She has worked for many campaigns, in Africa for the U.N, for the State Department in Bosnia and for eight years as a technical advisor for the Club de Madrid, the largest worldwide assembly of political leaders working to strengthen democratic values and good governance around the globe. She also mentioned that she attended Harvard with former president Barack Obama, that she supported the campaign of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and that she pulled back and reentered politics several times because “having a family has been very important to” her. She is “so excited that so many women are running”. 

First up was Ms. Di Pasquale, who stressed Senator Harris’s belief in accessible healthcare and medicare for all. “Under that particular vision of our future, we have the ability to skip over the piles of paperwork and give everyone equal access to healthcare, equal access to a better future,” Ms. Di Pasquale said, while sharing some of her personal struggles in this matter. 

When the American Culture class participated in a mock vote, what attracted a few of the students to vote for Senator Harris was that she was a very experienced person and more specifically, experienced in fighting for and helping children. When she worked as an Attorney General for the state of California, she prosecuted transnational gangs that exploited women and children and trafficked in guns and drugs. She has expressed her belief that current president Trump’s plans, which she called a “medieval vanity project”, to fight this problem will not stop them. “I saw their sophistication, their persistence and their ruthlessness” said Ms. Harris in a rally in Oakland, CA.     

Next up was Brianna Murphy, a musician from Nashville, Tennessee, who described Senator Booker as a “very productive person who gets things done.” A very notable idea of his platform is his Baby Bonds proposal, which would fund a federally-backed bank account for every child born in America. This ensures that all children born in the country will have the opportunity of a college education and will receive $55,000 to pay tuition. Currently,  about 70% of American students graduate college with a significant amount of student debt. This proposal has been widely acclaimed, since it may ensure that many students will get the chance for a college career. This drew the attention of the American Culture class students; most of them sided with this candidate during the mock vote. 

Mr. Booker also believes in the implementation of a gun-licensing program. The campaign says that the process of obtaining a gun will be similar to that of obtaining a passport. The individual hoping to purchase a gun would submit to interviews, fingerprinting, completing a gun safety course and lastly undergoing a background check. This plan has drawn criticism from gun rights advocates, but Senator Booker, who lives in a Newark, a city that struggles with gun violence on a daily basis, pledges to “bring the fight to the corporate gun lobby like it’s never seen before.”

The third person for whom two representatives were talking, Senator Warren, is a 70-year-old woman born in Oklahoma City where she grew up on the “ragged edge of the middle class”, according to her website. She is the senior Senator of Massachusetts since 2013 and a sharp critic of President Trump. She was a professor for consumer insolvencies at the Harvard Law school and is an “expert on money and bankruptcy”, according to her representative Jackie Rothmeier.

Ms. Warren was a registered Republican until the middle of the 90s, when she switched to the Democrats. In 2007 she was called in to help solve the problems of the 2007 financial crisis and in 2016 she supported the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Her political goals for her candidacy are to end  “Washington Corruption”, as she calls it on her website, rebuild the middle class, strengthen democracy and equal justice under law and a foreign policy for all.

One student who gravitated to her caucus was Sameer Issa, 15, from Syria, who has been living in the U.S. with his family for 2 1/2 years. 

After all the representatives spoke about their candidates, they expressed how their goal was to defeat Donald Trump. They will all support whoever wins the primary and goes against the President in the general election. Although political rivals, they called their campaigns “Friendship 2020.)

In the end the representatives took a picture with the students from the American Culture class, showing the posters of their candidates.