By Wei Luo, MPP 2017
Election night—Tuesday November 8, 2016. Harvard students, faculty, and staff gathered in the JFK Jr. Forum to witness a historic event. The Institute of Politics, the event’s organizer, decorated the Forum space and served food and refreshments to anxious students late into the night.
Jake Viola (MPP ’18), wearing patriotic colors from head to toe, was drawn to the energy of the event. “Election Day is my favorite day of the year, but I’m a bit conflicted,” he said, “I’m relieved that it’s over.”
David Olvera-Sanchez, a junior at Harvard College who came to the Forum from the Yard, also expressed a desire to move on. “The candidates had not moved closer together for the general election,” he noted, but he felt hopeful that “going forward we will value working together.”
Guam native Ian Simoy (MPP ’17) emphasized the importance of extending voting rights to unheard American citizens. “Until Guam and Puerto Rico have their votes heard, I think there’s a lot left to do to enfranchise voters in this country.”
Rui Zhang (MPP ’17) and Wentian Lu (MPP ’17) discussed the Chinese perspective on the U.S. elections. “The Chinese have a conflicted view of the election,” Rui explained, “They have complicated feelings for Hillary— she’s seen as hawkish—but Trump is a wildcard, and they don’t know much about him.”
“I don’t like the way the candidates talk about China,” Wentian said, “They focus so much on getting votes; they treat China like a problem instead of like a country.” Turning to the negativity of the campaign, she reflected, “I expected a more professional debate… I was a little shocked by the personal attacks.”
The event in the Forum closed at midnight. Students returned home and awaited the final results. At 1pm on the next day, students once again gathered in the JFK Jr. Forum to hear Dean Elmendorf deliver remarks and witness the ceremonial release of balloons—a custom performed regardless of election outcomes. As the sea of red, white, blue balloons descended on the Forum, students broke out into singing “Amazing Grace.”
Jake Viola (MPP ’18) posing with cutouts of the candidates set up by the Institute of Politics.