Saturday, October 15, 2011

Come gather around people wherever you roam...

This week I had the unusual pleasure of attending the Republican Economics debate in New Hampshire at Dartmouth College on Tuesday. But first let me back up. This story starts with 7 AIDS activists, a bus of journalism students and many bagels. On Monday morning all 60 of us (yikes) drove to New Hampshire to go to some of the pre-debate town hall events that the Republican presidential candidates were hosting. To completely understand this story I am going to have to explain an activism tactic called birddogging.

Birddogging is the tactic that activists use to put pressure on politicians to form a policy on a certain issue (in our case, HIV/AIDS). It involves repeatedly questioning the aforementioned politician in varying ways to either illicit a response or to gather media attention. It can end in either a relationship of understanding, or simply mutual annoyance.

First on our agenda was a Jon Huntsman event at a train station in Tilton, NH. We started by having a non-SGACer (Student Global AIDS Campaign) ask Huntsman a question about funding PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) at the same level as under the Bush administration. After two more questions Huntsman admitted that he did not know very much about the issue and promised to look in on it. And here is the best part- HE ACTUALLY DID! After the debate he came to speak to the students and mentioned how important fighting AIDS was. Jon Huntsman- SUCCESS!!

Moving on to Mitt Romney, a more heated albeit less happy tale. We went to a Romney event at a quaint New Hampshire general store along with 5 students that we managed to convince to come with us from the journalism class. Here is Mitt with Mrs. Romney:

Romney did not offer an opportunity to answer questions, so we went to his next event in Hopkinton, a town-hall style gathering. It was here that we met up with the rest of the St. Mikes group and sat down to enjoy watching and participating in the democratic process.

If you want a true picture of how the event went, I suggest watching this video:

Romney did not provide us the responses on HIV/AIDS policies that we would have liked, but the media attention that the issue gathered was well worth it. Check them out:

This trip was great for two reasons- one, SGAC was able to meet and discuss HIV/AIDS with our potential president. But what was even greater was that we could share this experience with people that may not have normally called themselves activists. Until next time, peace and power to the people!

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