A History of Debates at Saint Anselm College

Every college has a president. But only one college has had every United States president. And those who wanted to be president, for the past 60 years.

Saint Anselm College has a long, rich history of hosting politicians, pundits, journalists, Washington power-brokers, and presidential candidates on campus. 


Presidential Hopefuls

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Senator John F. Kennedy greets students outside of the Abbey Theater at Saint Anselm College on March 5, 1960.

In 1960, then-Senator and presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy visited campus twice; on his second visit, he gave a historic speech about America's conduct in the new realities of the emerging Cold War.

The day after declaring his candidacy for the 1968 election, Richard Nixon's first stop was a reception at Saint Anselm College, where he unveiled his campaign strategy regarding the Vietnam War 

In the last 60 years, additional presidential candidates include (but not limited to): Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush., George W. Bush, Bob Dole, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, Mike Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders. 



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Jesse Jackson giving a speech during the New Hampshire Presidential Primary Debate held at Saint Anselm College on February 23, 1984.

The college hosted its first presidential primary debate in 1984, featuring Walter Mondale, Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson. It was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and moderated by Barbara Walters. 

1988 - The League of Women Voters sponsored separate Democratic and Republican debates broadcast by Cable News Network (later known as CNN). The 1988 Democratic forum featured Mike Dukakis, Al Gore, Bruce Babbitt, Dick Gephardt, Gary Hart, Paul Simon, and Jesse Jackson. The next day George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Pierre S. du Pont, and Pat Robertson gathered for the Republican debate.

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Candidates for the Republican Party nomination on the stage of the Dana Center for the Humanities at Saint Anselm College during the League of Women Voters Presidential Debate on February 14, 1988, ahead of the New Hampshire Primary.

1992 – Democratic debates in the Dana Center reported by CNN and New Hampshire Public Radio. The candidates included Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerrey, and Paul Tsongas.

1996 - Republican debates sponsored by CNN with candidates Bob Dole, Steve Forbes, and Pat Buchanan.

Since then, it has hosted at least one presidential primary debate in each presidential election since 2004.

December 2015 and January 2016 - Democratic and Republican Debates aired by ABC News. 


New Hampshire Institute of Politics

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Ronald Reagan speaking in the Cardinal Cushing Student Activities Center at Saint Anselm College during his campaign for the 1976 New Hampshire Republican presidential primary.

Since it opened in 2001, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics has provided a nonpartisan forum for discussion and debate on all aspects of the American political process. 

Founded on the premise that an educated citizenry is vital for a healthy democracy, its mission is to educate, engage and empower citizens to participate in the civic and political life of their local, national and global communities.

The Institute offers unparalleled opportunities to be in the front row of the democratic process. 

Visitors and speakers include:

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Fr. Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., president of Saint Anselm College, introduces presidential candidate George W. Bush, 2000.
  • State representatives
  • U.S. senators
  • primary candidates
  • journalists
  • political pundits
  • authors
  • scientists
  • political experts
  • leading thinkers