It’s no secret that Georgetown students are passionate about politics. Even though the SFS is focused on the global stage, SFSers are no exception when it comes to their involvement in domestic politics. Two such students are Amanda Shepherd, SFS’18, and Allie Williams, SFS’19, who lead the student campaign groups for Hillary Clinton (Hoyas for Hillary) and Marco Rubio (GU Students for Rubio).
Shepherd, a sophomore International Politics major concentrating in security studies, grew up in New York City with Clinton as her senator for eight years. When Clinton announced her candidacy in spring 2015, Shepherd jumped at the chance to join her campaign, serving as a States and Political Intern in the Brooklyn headquarters during the summer of 2015, and taking over as the campus lead for the D.C. area upon her return to Georgetown in the fall. Shepherd plans to continue working for Clinton’s campaign and return to headquarters this summer through the fall.
Williams, a freshman who is also planning to declare a security studies concentration in the International Politics major, came to SFS already a Rubio supporter. When she discovered the Students for Rubio’s Georgetown chapter, she became involved as the Chairwoman of the student organization, growing the group from five students to 200.
“I think that everyone, on both sides of the political spectrum, would agree that this campaign cycle has been unprecedented and full of surprises. Campaigning for Senator Rubio has been an amazing and unforgettable experience,” said Williams.
Campaigning in the Heart of the Nation
Although both Shepherd and Williams arrived on campus already proud supporters of their candidates, Georgetown’s prime location for politics cast the campaign process in a brand new light. Campaigning in D.C. meant the women faced both a politically aware student body and a campus location with numerous exciting opportunities and experiences.
“Georgetown’s location in DC is second to none. The opportunities it provides is one of the main reasons I chose to attend, and my expectations have far been surpassed,” said Williams. “The Institute of Politics and Public Service on campus exposes students to so many remarkable speakers – how many other college students could say that they have been able to meet Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney all in their first year?”
For Shepherd, being in D.C. has also allowed her to branch out into the surrounding region to pursue her campaigning efforts.
“Being in DC has allowed Hoyas for Hillary specifically to take advantage of a number of exciting opportunities. We worked closely with the campaign efforts in Northern Virginia, an important state and ultimate win for the campaign. We also have been able to interact with hundreds of students in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, which is arguably the most organized and politically engaged region,” said Shepherd.
Despite Georgetown’s location in the heart of political America, Shepherd did not restrict her scope to just D.C. Last fall, she led 130 students from the D.C. area to New Hampshire to canvass, phone bank, and make sure that Hillary’s rally was a success.
“New Hampshire was always going to be a battleground state for Hillary. Being on the ground, canvassing and working for each and every vote is truly an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Shepherd. “I wanted to give students in the D.C. area the chance to say they had been a part of something historic.”
Diving Headfirst Into First Election
For both Shepherd and Williams, this will be their first presidential election – a major event for all students in their four years at Georgetown. While many students take the opportunity to vote in their first election, celebrate election night in front of the White House, and join the crowd at the inauguration in January, Shepherd and Williams have experienced their first presidential election in an entirely different context.
“In particular, connecting with voters through canvassing and phone banking exercises has awarded me with an interesting insight into the minds of voters, as well as the persuasive methods with which one can respectfully attract them to vote for a particular candidate,” said Williams.
Shepherd’s firsthand experience with the Clinton campaign has allowed her to gain a unique perspective on the election process, which has in turn deepened her commitment to the campaign.
“My involvement in Hillary Clinton’s campaign has completely changed the way I look at the election. Not only have I learned an incredible amount about our political system, but I am also significantly more invested in the outcome of the election than I think I would have been had I not been involved,” said Shepherd. “As young people, or ‘millennials,’ the decisions made by the next President will affect us most directly, so it feels right that the first election I can vote in is also one I am so heavily involved in.”
Hoyas for Healthy Debate and Open Dialogue
Both Shepherd and Williams have found that Hoyas’ political ideologies across the spectrum, when paired with Georgetown’s Jesuit values, foster an open political climate that promotes productive and respectful dialogue.
“I do believe that in my capacity as Chair of [Georgetown University Students For Rubio] and Director of Campus Affairs of GU College Republicans, I have been able to engage in meaningful political discourse with members of the community and negate inaccurate stereotypes while replacing them with a more positive and veracious message of what true conservatism entails,” said Williams. “Miraculously, I have been able to find common ground with many people with political ideologies which would be deemed incompatible with my own, and that really is the beauty of Georgetown and the student body’s commitment to free speech and open dialogue.”
Despite the passion that many Hoyas display in their political affiliations, Shepherd agrees that the political climate at the Hilltop encourages conversation and understanding.
“Being in an environment like Georgetown’s, one in which healthy debate, dialogue, and disagreement is welcomed and respected, has helped me to approach what can only be described as an unpredictable political climate with a level head. Ultimately, those in public service strive to be ‘men and women for others,’ and Georgetown has helped me to keep that necessary perspective and allowed me to refrain from getting too caught up in divisive rhetoric.”
Disregarding Hoya Basketball’s latest disappointing standing, Williams sums up the Hilltop quite accurately: “On what other college campus would you find more students gathering to watch a presidential debate than a basketball game?” Welcome to Georgetown.