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Spring Edition
Volume 99, Number 4

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Messiah students talk back after experiencing The Compassion Forum

The Compassion Forum provided a unique opportunity for Messiah College students who were able to witness the first-of-its-kind event where candidates campaigning for the U.S. presidency in 2008 addressed questions of how their faith informs their politics. The evening following the Forum, an open talk-back session— led by professors Brian and Valerie Smith— gave students and others from the College community a chance to process their reactions to the questions posed, the answers given, and the issues at stake.

Here is some of what students were saying.


Megan Donaghue '08, director of Human Rights Awareness
Megan Donaghue '08, director of  Human Rights Awareness

The Experience

“I sat on the wing section, and you could feel the excitement in the room when the candidates came in....I enjoyed listening to the candidates speak in person as opposed to watching them on the television screen." 

Chris Colin '08, student body president

“It’s amazing how big Brubaker (Auditorium) looked on CNN.” 

Raymond Shalhoub '10, Student Government Association secretary

“I would describe it as reserved excitement . . . I was shocked by the fact that even the candidates themselves seemed, let’s say, almost nervous, a good nervous.  Everyone knew the historical weight of the event.  You could feel the weight of time on you, it was very exciting.” 

Karrie Craft '09, Messiah College Democrats

The Issues

"I think the moral issues are extremely important. I think it's important to ask candidates personal questions, because we get to know them better."

Raymond Shalhoub '10

"I think we came into it expecting a little more on [human rights issues] than we ended up getting, and I think some of the answers were a little disappointing. I also think one of the biggest missed opportunities was Jim Wallis' question about cutting poverty in ten years . . . it's oversimplifying, and I think Senator Obama really had the opportunity to say something informative about the system's problems."

Todd Holtzman '08, student outreach director of the Agape Center

Todd Holtzman '08, student outreach director
Todd Holtzman '08, student outreach director

The Questions

“The most surprising things to me were the questions. It was impressive to hear the moderators ask questions that Messiah College forms entire classes around and expect the candidates to answer them in one minute."

Raymond Shalhoub '10

“I think the nature of the discussion last night was such that it wasn't a debate, but it was a little more soul-searching. Senator Clinton was asked more personal, theological questions and Senator Obama was asked a lot of direct policy questions. I think the content of what they said was very similar. Their rhetoric was different."

Meghan Donaghue '08, director of Human Rights Awareness of the Agape Center

“I really appreciated the fact that Campbell Brown and Jon Meacham asked probing questions about the candidates' faith. We got to see a different side of them that we haven't seen before. I was more surprised by the personal questions than by the questions from the audience."

Karrie Craft '09

The Response

"Certainly there are things that governments - presidents - can do to improve society, but there are many things we as individuals can do. . . . The best thing a president can do is call to action and inspire people to serve. " Todd Holtzman '08


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