BC Student Kris Munden Participates in White House Roundtable, Meets President Obama
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (March 2011) — Boston College senior Kristoffer Munden was among a group of Boston area college students who participated in a White House-sponsored roundtable discussion on March 8 that coincided with President Barack Obama’s visit to TechBoston Academy.
President Obama made a brief appearance at the discussion, greeting Munden and the other participants, who had gathered to talk about bipartisan partnerships and building young people’s interest in civic affairs. Kalpen Modi, associate director for the White House Office of Public Engagement, was the roundtable moderator. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe and Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes also were in attendance.
Munden, who is president of College Democrats of Boston College, joined representatives from Democratic, Republican and independent student organizations at Tufts, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern at the nearly two-hour event.
“Overall, it was an extraordinarily cordial discussion,” said Munden, a political science major with a minor in history from San Pedro in the Philippines. “Whatever differences we might have, we agreed the big question is, how do we encourage young people’s civic participation? On the one hand, voter turnout for college students tends to be low, yet students are very passionate about political and social issues.”
Munden said he asked Obama for his thoughts on the dilemma of channeling students’ passion into a greater commitment to civic engagement. Obama told the group that nurturing that interest can take time, and the results may not be immediately apparent — and he held himself up as an example, Munden noted: “He talked about his own college years and said he wasn’t always that politically active.”
Obama said the under-30 vote in the 2008 election — which one study found was the third-highest total in history — was “an exception,” according to Munden. “He explained that people under 30 years old took more of an interest because he was younger and didn’t fit the usual mold of presidential candidates.”
Although he had seen the president in person before, Munden said the smaller, more intimate setting seemed to suit Obama. “He was articulate, funny and friendly, and you could see he enjoyed talking with us.”
Munden said he and his fellow student representatives expressed hope that the discussion could serve as a springboard for future collaborations to encourage their peers’ civic and political involvement.
“We felt this could be a great opportunity to work together, in a bipartisan fashion, to get more students engaged.”
--Sean Smith, Office of News & Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org