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Both St. Ben’s and St. John’s have been home to many great minds, including Denis McDonough ‘92. McDonough served as President Barack Obama’s White House Chief of Staff for four years, an esteemed position in government. Even if students weren’t aware that a fellow Johnnie helped advise the President of the United States on the inner workings of the nation it’s hard to ignore after last week’s Politics and a Pint.
Many students were excited to hear McDonough’s talk last week, our editors included. However, due to the location of the event in Pellegrene and its early weekday time at 2:30 p.m., many students had to miss the rare opportunity. Others who were willing to miss work or class for the conversation were not able to claim a spot in the small auditorium.
Even more disappointing was that dozens of people were asked to leave the auditorium because of the overcrowding. Those of us who would have been willing to stand along the back wall for an hour for the chance to hear this speaker were turned away.
For all of us who have an interest in politics, public policy or are even avid binge-watchers of “The West Wing” (there are several at The Record), not being able to see McDonough speak was a disappointment. Something we think could have been alleviated if the event would have been scheduled for later in the day and held at the SBH theatre, a space that holds 500 occupants.
We understand there are inevitably lots of logistics to consider when hosting a guest with as high of a profile as McDonough. Perhaps the organizers never predicted that this event would be as popular as it was and didn’t think to book a larger space in which to host it. We understand that the McCarthy Center decided not to allow filming of the event, which meant no television news coverage or Facebook live streaming–something that has accompanied high-profile speakers sponsored by the McCarthy Center in the past.
If students would have known beforehand that there was limited seating and no video would be available to stream the interview, we believe there would have been less frustration following the otherwise successful event.
Of all the problems that the McCarty Center could have had in hosting such a high-profile speaker, having too many people interested in attending was likely a preferable one. However, we know we aren’t alone in wishing we all could have had the chance to learn from one of our own. The alumni connection is strong in our community and McDonough has a lot to offer. If he or other high-profile guests are invited to campus in the future we simply ask that it does not become a first-come, first-served event, especially in the middle of the day. We all benefit from this experience that is so essential to our college education.