The Georgetown Institute of Politics held a two-day forum on climate change featuring 2020 presidential candidates on Thursday and Friday. The Gaston Hall event featured 12 candidates and was co-sponsored by Our Daily Planet, New York Magazine, and MSNBC, the major media sponsor. MSNBC anchors Chris Hayes and Ali Velshi served as the event’s moderators.
The format of the forum gave each candidate an hour of time. The first thirty minutes were a discussion with the moderator and the final thirty minutes were left open for questions from the crowd, which included students from colleges and universities around the D.C. area. The audience was not just confined to Gaston Hall, with watch parties being held at Iowa State University, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Southern California. Students from those schools had the opportunity to ask candidates questions through a live video feed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had the largest crowd on the first day, while Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson had the next biggest draws. The other candidates who spoke Thursday were Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Fmr. Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Fmr. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.
Thursday night also featured a rebuttal to the forum hosted by Georgetown University College Republicans. The event featured five speakers giving a conservative perspective on climate change and was interrupted by protestors who performed a sit-in. The protestors disrupted the event to the point that GUPD was called.
Friday morning opened with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) followed by Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT). Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, went third and was the only candidate on the day to fill Gaston. The afternoon also included Tom Steyer, and Fmr. Gov. Bill Weld (R-MA). As the only Republican candidate to speak, Weld closed out the two day event.
During his opening comments on the first day, Mo Elleithee, founder and executive director of the Institute of Politics, said that there is no more important issue for college students. “I have never seen an issue animate young voters the way the issue of climate change does,” Elleithee said. He pointed to a number of polls showing that young people consistently rank climate change as one of the most important issues, and have very strong feelings about it.
Elleithee said that with that in mind, the forum was a no brainer. “It’s clear that young people want to have this conversation with political leaders,” he said. “So we said, ‘yeah, let’s do that.’”
Photo courtesy of John Picker