Keene State College is one of the 220 participating campuses in the American Democracy Project, which Campus Coordinator Kim Schmidl-Gagne described as an initiative that is focused on higher education’s role in preparing the next generation of active and engaged citizens for our democracy. On Tuesday, Oct. 30, Keene State partnered with the American Democracy Project to host U.S. senator Jeanne Shaheen in a forum in the Mountain View Room at the Young Student Center.
Shaheen spoke mainly of foreign affairs, and ended the event with encouraging members of the crowd to go out and cast their vote on Election Day.
“I would urge everyone to vote on Tuesday,” Shaheen said in regard to the midterm election this week. “All of you students, you know you can vote; you cannot be denied the right to vote … Get all of your friends to vote because that’s how we can influence what happens in addition to making our voices heard on social media, with our friends, [and] in our communities here at the college.”
Davis Bernstein is a second year student who has a dual major in political science and Holocaust and genocide studies. He had the chance to introduce the senator to the audience made up of about 50 members of the community and students.
“[On Election Day], polls are open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. There will be rides from Next Gen and the school behind the Student Center all day, so you should definitely be able to get out and vote. You can vote no matter what. No law is going to stop you this year,” Bernstein said.
“It is not just Congress’s duty to address what’s been happening in our foreign policy. As I look around at all of you who are here, it’s up to all of us to address what’s happening in the country,” Shaheen said. “Together, we can all speak out. Whether it’s about the hate speech and the rhetoric that we’ve heard at the national level, whether it’s about our concerns for what’s happening with foreign citizens with the international order, it’s incumbent on all of us to take a stand on these issues because that’s what’s going to change.”
“The Keene State community is grateful to have Senator Shaheen here today, and I’m honored to have an opportunity to introduce Senator Jeanne Shaheen,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein was asked to open up the event because he is a campus organizer for New Hampshire Young Democrats, as well as the president of KSC Democrats.
“I was asked if I would do the intro, and Jeanne Shaheen is one of my idols, so I was so thrilled to be able to do this today,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein is passionate about the senator and her work. “It’s really great knowing we have someone so informed as our senator, and representing us in D.C. She knows literally everything there is to know about foreign policy. So with what’s going on in the White House, it’s good to know that we have someone knowledgeable and caring focused on foreign policy,” Bernstein said.
Associate professor of political science Dr. Philip Barker was approached to moderate the forum.
“I got an email last week that said the Senator wanted to talk specifically about foreign policy and international affairs, which is classes that I teach in the political sciences department, so … they asked me if I would be willing to [moderate], and I gladly accepted!” Barker said.
“I’ve had the chance to talk with politicians in the past, and my everyday life is standing up in front of a crowd, but this is the first time I’ve moderated a session with a senator or a national-level politician.”
Attendees were encouraged to stand up and ask Shaheen any questions they had for her. A sophomore Keene State student asked, “What do you believe we can do about the Russian influence on our elections?”
Shaheen responded with, “There are a couple of things that we can do as individuals to respond. One is to make sure that if something on social media … doesn’t identify where it’s from, that you check it out, so you’re not just believing something that gets Tweeted out, or something that gets shared on the news … We have not been as suspicious as we ought to be about what we’re seeing.”
Following the event, Barker said, “I thought it went great! I thought she did a great job of responding to the questions on the fly with the students — well, the community in general — but I noticed a number of Keene State students ask really good questions. We got through a wide variety of topics. I thought it went really well.”
Amanda Bevis can be contacted at