Talking politics with the pros: Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman visit Gettysburg to speak with students

Chris Matthews visit to campus

“This conversation is the best in the country. You don’t get this kind of exposure anywhere else,” said Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, while at Gettysburg College with Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post.

The hour-long conversation, held in the College’s Alumni House, provided 15 Gettysburg students with the opportunity to bring their political passions into a real-world discussion with the experts, as well as for the experts to learn more about the millennial vote this election season.

Matthews and Fineman facilitated a lively conversation with students from a variety of campus organizations—from College Republicans, College Democrats, and College Independents to nonpartisan affiliated students with Students for Sanders, Gettysburg Anti-Capitalist Collective, Young Americans for Liberty, Student Senate, Students for Hillary, and The Eisenhower Institute.

Chris Matthews visit to campus
View all of the photos from Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman's visit on Flickr

The main topic of discussion was the current presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Students respectfully debated both sides of the coin on a variety of issues—citing differences in experience, domestic and foreign policy, and leadership style.

Piper O’Keefe ’17 explained her reasoning for supporting the Clinton campaign:

“Her experienced role within the international community is what’s drawing me to vote for her. I can also appreciate that in my first presidential voting year, my vote will be cast for a woman.”

Opinions were heard from the opposing side as well:

“I think that people are afraid to say that they’re voting for Trump. Clinton fails to capture millennial votes because many feel that she’s disingenuous,” voiced Zach Bartman ’18.

During the discussion, students quoted current polling numbers and identified the regions of Pennsylvania that could swing to either the Republican or Democratic side in the upcoming month.

“You guys really know your stuff,” said Matthews.

Fineman echoed that sentiment: “Here at Gettysburg, a liberal arts institution, you all have been taught to understand and appreciate facts and analyses that bolster a great argument.”

Watch Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman discuss their visit on Hardball at the 2:20 mark.

The students’ reflections post-discussion were inspired, with a buzzing sense of excitement for the upcoming election. Amelia Smith ’17 explained her personal insights after the conversation with the political professionals:

“I have been lucky enough to meet Chris Matthews before this event through a program with The Eisenhower Institute. I remember at that meeting, he was asking us whether or not we thought that Hillary Clinton would run for president in 2016.

“Now, here we are three years later, actually talking about the Clinton campaign. Having such a casual setting created great conversations that really made me think about my own personal opinions about this election!”

Chris Matthews visit to campus

To sign off, Matthews left his captivated audience of young Gettysburgians with a few words of advice— and some hope for the future of the United States political system.

“Please run for office. Go into politics in the future because you all will have the experience and the passion to lead.”

Read about Chris Matthews’ visit to Gettysburg in 2011; he also spoke in 2008. Howard Fineman participated in a panel discussion on campus in 2012.