By Liliana López
2020 is an unprecedented year for politics. It is a year that has seen a global pandemic, hyperactive wildfires, and inflammatory issues of social justice, all of which will make for an ideologically heated election year. It is amidst this socially distanced environment that Pacific has created a number of virtual events in lieu of in person activities on campus. One of these events is Pacific Talks Politics, a series of webinars featuring numerous speakers who give insight about the upcoming presidential election. The series was created as a collaborative effort between the Political Science Department and President Christopher Callahan. It features various journalists, lawyers, and political scientists, including John King from CNN and Brian Landsberg, a law professor at the McGeorge School of Law.
An election-related event on this scale is a first for both President Callahan and the Political Science department, though the latter has always held smaller events during election season. Although an in-person event would be preferable, President Callahan states that the use of technology like Zoom helps events become more inclusive and accessible to students, and also allows for more speakers, without “being limited by geography.” Indeed, the speakers’ diverse localities and areas of expertise has had a positive effect on Pacific students. One such student is Matthias Lopez, Political Science and Philosophy ’22, who was particularly impressed by the speakers, saying that the discussions were “delivered by some of the most politically aware [people] around. To have that access is rare.” Students, however, are not the only ones learning from the experience. For Political Science department chair Jeffrey Becker, the experience has been especially helpful in gauging student engagement and learning about what topics students would like to hear more on. He hopes the webinars will help students discover diverse career opportunities.
So far, the series has been very successful. The first webinar had around 40 attendees, a number which later tripled to more than 130 when Judy Woodruff from PBS Newshour presented on September 25th. Pacific Talks Politics attendees include current students, alumni, staff, and other community members. Becker, Callahan, and Lopez all agree that the series is valuable in that it provides our community with resources about the upcoming election, and helps voters at Pacific answer important questions about various political issues. Lopez 120% recommends for Pacific students to attend this event because “It is not good enough to be 100% engaged in political discourse. Our country is in a critical state…hence the [extra] 20%.”
After the great success that the series has seen so far, President Callahan would like to continue this tradition at Pacific in the coming election years. Pacific Talks Politics’ schedule can be found at the following link: https://calendar.pacific.edu/event/presidential_election_series_pacific_talks_politics