On February 29, 2016, the Department of History hosted the prestigious event Congress to Campus. This day-long event – organised in association with the US Association of Former Members of Congress and the Eccles Centre at the British Library – brought together politicians, scholars, students and wider public audiences to discuss US political and institutional history. Former members Ken Kramer (R-Colorado, 1979-1987) and Larry LaRocco (D-Idaho) provided students with insight into the American political system through sharing their real-life experiences as candidates and office holders. They were joined by Professor Phil Davies (British Library), Dr Nigel Bowles (University of Oxford), Professor Iwan Morgan (UCL), Dr Mara Oliva (Reading) and over 150 students to discuss the current political scene in anticipation of the 2016 elections, partisan polarisation and disputes over immigration, healthcare, energy and foreign policy.
Dafydd Townley, a current PhD, reports on the event:
The Congress to Campus visit by former Representatives Larry LaRocco and Ken Kramer offered a great opportunity to students. The congressmen talked about their times in office and how the issues of their day could be seen in today’s political debate. Congressman LaRocco spoke about how his personal interaction with President Bill Clinton led to him being invited to go jogging with the president. This personal support for Clinton’s budget led to Rep LaRocco being targeted by Republicans in the midterms and he subsequently lost his seat. Both congressmen were willing to talk about the issues that the students brought up in an open question session: gun ownership, race relations, and the 2016 US presidential election were all subjects that were tackled. The differences between the two parties were evident in their sometimes lively debate. They made themselves available for photographs and a more informal talk during the coffee and lunch breaks. It was a great opportunity for students to get an insider’s detailed look at the political process in Washington. For those who studied American political history at Reading through either the American Dream or Cold War modules, it was a wonderful chance to see and hear eye witnesses from those involved.