New grant encourages political life

By Marissa Warden

A $50,000 grant from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation will give Macalester students the opportunity to explore citizen engagement and engage in dialogue about politically related issues. Robin Ruthenbeck, associate director for campus programs, said she sees this as an opportunity to redefine what it means to be political so that it becomes something more than just voting.

The grant, approved at the end of September, has funded viewing parties for the vice presidential debate on Oct. 2 and the presidential debate Oct. 7. Helen Warren, director of the foundation relations department said that “the students who organized the debates are still in charge-the funds are intended to support student driven events.”

The grant will also help bring former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack to campus on Oct. 31. He will be speaking on the election and U.S. energy and environmental policy.

“The election,” Warren said, “presents a wonderful opportunity for faculty, students and visitors to examine the issues and political discourse.”

The grant will not support programs that endorse a candidate or a position.

The goal of the grant, Ruthenbeck said, is to help motivate and inform Macalester students.

“My hope,” she said, “is for students to organize roundtable discussions about key issues that matter to them and invite faculty and people they may or may not agree with because programming in intersections provides an opportunity for more fruitful engagement.”

Ruthenbeck also hopes for sustained dialogue after the election. She offered the idea of discussing the role of women in the election during Women’s History month or examining the impact of race in the election by going beyond the broad and general categories created by the media.

“If we’re effective,” Ruthenbeck said, “people will continued to be involved and we’ll see continued dialogue after the election regardless of the results.