Hosts of ‘Pod Save America’ engage UC Berkeley students in discussion on politics

Sophia Brown-Heidenreich/Staff

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The hosts of “Pod Save America,” a popular political podcast, spoke to UC Berkeley students on young people’s involvement in politics at an event on campus Monday afternoon.

Stopping in Berkeley on their national tour, “Pod Save America” hosts Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor engaged with about 80 student attendees in discussion before heading to Oakland for their planned live show later that evening. Partnering with the ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President and the Undergraduate Political Science Association, or UPSA, Cal Berkeley Democrats President Caiden Nason led a preliminary discussion with the three guests before opening the floor to questions.

During the event, Favreau, Lovett and Vietor discussed the current political landscape and offered advice for future participants in government. The podcast hosts pointed to a project that seeks to elect Democratic representatives to the seven red districts in California that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 as an opportunity for college students to become politically active in the next year.

The three guests also encouraged audience members to participate in campaigns in California and even to help out in the upcoming Nevada and Arizona senate races.

“It is the most impactful thing to do, in terms of actually dedicating seven days a week to the change you want in this country,” Vietor said at the event. “That would be my No. 1 recommendation for everybody.”

During the question-and-answer session, students brought up topics ranging from foreign affairs to campaign finance, some criticizing current Democratic policy. Lovett himself touched upon these divisions within the party, voicing both optimism and concern over the productivity of such debates.

“It was really cool to get them to talk about contemporary issues and get students to ask whatever is on their mind, instead of it being a one-sided monologue,” said Divya Vijay, a campus junior who attended the event.

Vijay noted that she does not ordinarily listen to podcasts, but she said “Pod Save America” combines news and humor in a way that both instructs and entertains. During the event, the room frequently erupted in laughter amid serious discussions of politics.

Nason said he considers the invitation of high-profile figures on the left part of a larger effort to engage students in politics, adding that similar events are planned for the next semester. According to Nason, the goal of the Cal Berkeley Democrats is to involve more people in Democratic politics, which he believes can be encouraged by speakers such as Favreau, Lovett and Vietor.

Scott Strgacich, issues co-chair for UPSA, one of the co-hosts of the event, said he hoped that despite partisan rhetoric, such speakers would foster open dialogue on campus.

“Our main objective is to conjure up a conversation,” Strgacich said. “What their main purpose was in coming here, was that they wanted an open and intimate dialogue with students.”

Contact Sophia Brown-Heidenreich at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sophiabrownh.