This fall, foliage isn't the only draw luring visitors to New Hampshire. The 60th birthday of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has spurred the Brown Students for Hillary group to plan a celebratory canvassing trip to Nashua, N.H., next weekend.
Though members of the group canvassed in New Hampshire on Oct. 13, and Clinton has consistently led the polls, the group organizers don't want to miss any opportunities to rally support for the candidate in the months preceding the first presidential primary.
"Just because she's ahead in the polls doesn't mean there's not a lot of work to do to help her stay there," said Craig Auster '08, one of the group's co-leaders.
Brown Students for Hillary was established February 2007, soon after Clinton announced her candidacy, and was co-founded by Auster, Jennifer Chudy '07, Ava Lubell '09, Rebecca Rattner '09 and Rachel Sobelson '07.5.
Though three of the five co-founders -- Auster, Lubell, and Rattner -- are from New York, they say the rest of the group is more geographically diverse. With about 130 Brown students on the e-mail listserv and a core group of about 20, the group conducts weekly campus meetings organized on an ad hoc basis, Lubell said.
Though registered with Clinton's national campaign office, the group acts as an independent entity, Rattner said. "We pursue what is best for Brown's campus and student body, providing support for the national campaign but not dictation," she said.
Last April, the group organized a lecture on the 2000 election by Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and current chairman of Clinton's presidential campaign, Auster said. Though members of Students for Hillary organized the event, the Brown Democrats sponsored it because University policy prohibits the use of funds for campaign purposes.
On Monday, Oct. 15, the group organized a lecture followed by a question-and-answer session with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke '62, which took place off campus at the Hope Club. Holbrooke, one of Clinton's foreign policy advisers, a professor-at-large based in the Watson Institute for International Studies and a former Herald editor in chief, addressed a crowd of about 30 on the importance of the coming election, Rattner said.
Future events include a debate-watching party on Oct. 30, a mock debate featuring student representatives for each Democratic candidate on Nov. 8, and more canvassing trips to New Hampshire, Lubell said.
Lubell said her passion for the campaign was sparked last winter, when she worked as an intern in Clinton's Washington, D.C., office. The day after Lubell left the capital, Clinton announced her candidacy for president.
"She's a very, very capable public official, and everyone loved her on a personal level," Lubell said. "There are a lot of misconceptions about her -- many of the public's critiques you hear from people that don't support her -- she seems cold, overly prepared, overly ambitious. But I would walk by her office and hear people cracking up with her all the time."
Rattner said the public often misconstrues Clinton's work ethic.
"I think she's motivated by a desire to help, and that becomes very clear when you meet her," she said. "It comes from a genuine love of her country, and that's why she works so hard."
Auster appeals to Clinton's political history to justify his support.
"The country needs change, and the only candidate that's really going to bring about change is Senator Clinton," he said. "She's had so much experience. For example, no one knows more about health care. If you look at the whole package, I don't think any other candidate can match her."
Gender should not be an issue, Auster said.
Lubell said she approved of Clinton's economic policies, her program to make college more affordable, her plan to deal with the volatile subprime housing market and her willingness to hear expert advice on the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I think a lot of people realize that we're heading in the wrong direction in Iraq. Bush's policy is clearly not working," Auster said. "Senator Clinton knows that we need to redeploy troops. She realizes that the safety of our troops comes first, and that is really, out of all the candidates, the smartest position to be taking on the war."
Despite the heated competition for the party nomination, Lubell insists that Students for Hillary harbors no animosity towards Students for Barack Obama. "It couldn't be farther from the truth. We share a lot of values, and we're working for similar goals. I just think Hillary's an amazing presidential candidate."
In response to claims that activism on the Brown campus has waned during the past few decades, Auster and Lubell contend that the nature of student activism has changed, but not the sense of political commitment.
"America is so dominated by nonprofits - it's not always saying 'stick it to the man' anymore," Lubell said.
Auster remains optimistic that activism at Brown will surge as the 2008 presidential election approaches.
"Things come in waves. After the 2004 election, the campus was a little quieter," Auster said. "Activism today is not the same as it was in the 60s or 70s. It's not as visible or protest-oriented, but it's really vibrant."
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© 2007 Brown Daily Herald via U-WIRE