Throughout 2016-17 SIG’s Public Policy Forum (PPF) worked hard to capitalize on the tremendous amount of energy and interest surrounding our politics and convert it into thoughtful policy discussions across campus.
On November, just four days before the 2016 presidential election, PPF put together a mock presidential debate to encourage policy-centered dialogue in a peer-to-peer setting. Stanford students were recruited to take on the roles of presidential candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein. Many of the real debates unfortunately focused more on the candidates’ personal characters and less on their policy platforms; thus, this mock presidential debate sought to fill that gap. The event was a huge success, attracting 60 attendees who were all able to engage with the “candidates” by asking them questions and sometimes even responding to some of the statements they made. Indeed, many students left the event saying they felt better qualified to vote on election day. The debate was certainly the highlight of PPF’s fall programming slate.
Early winter quarter, PPF held an inauguration day event to celebrate policy as public service and provide students with a forum to discuss hopes for the next four years. Though inauguration day this year was a trying time for many on campus, PPF lightened the mood with activities such as presidential trivia. Many attendees ended up sitting in small groups discussing and learning about the executive branch and its place in our government. Ideally, we wanted students to leave the event with a better understanding for how policy is made at the federal level and how much influence the president has in that process. Later in the quarter, PPF hosted a “Trump Policy Forum” in White Plaza. Much like the inauguration day event, we wanted this to be educational and help students understand President Trump’s first 100 days from a policy perspective.
Then in spring quarter, to cap off our year, PPF brought a taco truck into White Plaza on a Friday afternoon for our “We the People Day” event. We asked students to reflect on what the phrases “public service” and “we the people” meant to them. Over delicious tacos and burritos, event attendees talked about what it means to live in a constitutional democracy and the demands such a system of government places on its citizenry. Overall, over the course of the two hours the taco truck was there, we engaged over 200 students on these issues and were able to register almost 50 of them to vote (the rest were thankfully already registered) — a fitting end to a good year of PPF programming.