Event Contest Winners

In order to increase engagement with and reflection upon the issues discussed at our public events, the IFC is offering current students the chance to respond to a brief prompt after each event, with the best three responses chosen to win prizes.  The prompts will be distributed to students in attendance, and each response submitted over the course of the semester will count as one entry toward the drawing for the grand prize (a $200 Amazon gift card!).

Congratulations to the following winners, who have been notified via email:


4/16/2019 – The Question of Assimilation/Incorporation in 21st Century America

Prompt: Please describe how an idea, argument, or perspective shared by any of the speakers today caused you to think in new or different ways.

First prize ($50 Target gift card) – Submitted by: (Prefers to Remain Anonymous) ’19

The United States of America has no official language. And while the word “assimilation” is charged with historically racist connotations, Peter Beinart points out that acquiring proficiency in the English language is the greatest indicator of economic success among immigrants.  But all three panelists agree that “assimilation” is not just “accruing aspects of America culture,” i.e. language acquisition.  Assimilation is also additional, that is, assimilation is immigrants adding their own language, values, recreation, food and art to American culture so that this culture may become enriched.

This multi-faceted, nuanced definition of “assimilation” can enable us to move forward in the immigration debate in a realistic and productive manner.

Second prize ($25 Target gift card) – Submitted by: (Prefers to Remain Anonymous)22

I came to the U.S. when I was 5 years old. Throughout my entire life, assimilation has been something my family almost actively works against. I remember the guilt and sadness I felt when I first heard someone tell me that they were surprised at my lack of an accent. My life as a child consisted of a school life where I was the exception to the achievement gap which alienated my from others that shared the same culture as me, forcing me to silence the non-American traits I possessed and a home life which didn’t just celebrate our culture but tended to denounce American culture. To me, this had always been a black and white issue. That is, until today’s discussion. Today’s discussion taught me that there are positive connotations to assimilation and that without them I would not be here at St. Olaf. It was also challenged my way of thinking about new immigrants that have taken a different path than me. Where I used to hold contempt, I now hold the question of whether American values are truly better than traditional ones.

Third prize ($10 Target gift card) – Submitted by: Sam Bailey ’21

I found Beinart’s argument explaining the increase in nationalism among mainstream Republicans interesting.  He asserts that the three pillars of the right are capitalism, Christianity, and nationalism and that disenfranchisement with capitalism and increasing secularism have contributed to a growth in nationalism. He posits however that a degree and type of nationalism tied to a collective identity are a necessary part of the country and even the assimilation process. I wish the discussion had the time for him to clarify his definition of nationalism and refine his stance on the degree of nationalism. His tactful support of nationalism is unique in a political climate that boldly embraces it or condemns it.


4/10/2019 – Immigration, Populism, and the European Union

Prompt: Please describe how an idea, argument, or perspective shared by any of the speakers today caused you to think in new or different ways.

First prize ($50 Target gift card) – Submitted by: (Prefers to Remain Anonymous) ’19

Frank Furedi began tonight by saying “there is no such thing as Europe.” This idea reminded me of conversations I had with Danes when I studied abroad in Copenhagen. Everyone I spoke with seemed to share this sentiment: “I’m Danish, not European.” Further, one of my professors showed our class the results of a poll, which asked EU citizens if they felt more like a citizen of Europe or a citizen of their country. Something like 10% of respondents said they felt more like a European.

This is a troubling reality for the E.U.  How can the E.U. expect citizens of Germany to be happy with monetary policy that benefits Greece, when Germans feel no camaraderie with Greeks? Until European citizens feel as strong an allegiance towards the E.U. as U.S. citizens feel towards the U.S. as a whole, the future of the E.U. appears bleak.

Second prize ($25 Target gift card) – Submitted by: (Prefers to Remain Anonymous)19

Frank Furedi’s opening statement asserted that problems with immigration arise domestically not because of an excessive, hard line domestic identity, but because of a lack of this identity. This assertion is novel to me as I have always thought that issues of assimilation arose from an excess of domestic identity, a sort of xenophobic defense. Furedi seems to say that this anxiety of immigration stems from a community’s already weak cultural identity, which cannot be detected by immigrants in order to assimilate, and the communal identity is further trivialized.

Third prize ($10 Target gift card) – Submitted by: Sam Bailey ’21

This talk was extremely engaging because you got to see an immigration debate with a different setting than our national one but with clear parallels.  The point about the dichotomous nature of borders as both a bridge and a door framed immigration debates in a new way for me, which makes clear that the topic can be approached in two ways which explains some of the disconnect I notice sometimes.  Professor Furedi’s point about the EU viewing national identity and sovereignty as secondary collective, I wish was elaborated. I am intrigued as to who he means when he says the EU. Professor Goldhammer explained some of the power structures and regional dynamics but it does not answer the who question. Who holds the views that Furedi disagrees with and how do they rise to power? How do they come to hold those views? If populism was a response to this devaluation of national identity, why not elect populist EU leaders? This discussion offered me more questions than answers, which I find exciting.


3/19/2019Immigration and the New Class War

Prompt: Please describe how an idea, argument, or perspective shared by any of the speakers today caused you to think in new or different ways.

First prize ($50 Target gift card) – Submitted by: (Prefers to Remain Anonymous) ’19

Michael Lind talked about how the traditional Democratic thought regarding immigration was to restrict it, and I had never heard this before.  I always thought the reason why we would restrict immigration was because of racist motives, not because we want to protect the wages of native citizens.  This falls along the idea that we should have living wages or high minimum wages. Because he brought this up, I think I might be more sympathetic to people who support restrictions on immigration.

Second prize ($25 Target gift card) – Submitted by: Sam Bailey ’21

I found Lind’s perspective on the immigration debate thought provoking as it was a different perspective than normally portrayed.  His view contrasted Jason Brennan’s free border view nicely although the both used economic arguments. Brennan seemed to focus on a macroeconomic level whereas Lind focused more on the individual worker and producer. His perspective was a surprising mix of views held by the right and left in the political sphere. He’s for a pathway to citizenship but against more lenient borders. These and other views expressed by Lind seem to demonstrate that the positions espoused by the left and right in the political realm are not mutually exclusive and can be melded.

Third prize ($10 Target gift card) – Submitted by: (Prefers to Remain Anonymous) ’21

“We are in the early stages of Cold War II” with China as the main adversary.  Should we have history repeat itself, what new changes will that have on the new technological world, especially the great powers?  Would this set us back in relations with other countries, and how will that further affect the struggle of immigration policies and even further the nation’s views about immigrants (both legal and illegal)?


2/19/2019The Immigration Trilemma: Local Sovereignty, Freedom of Movement, and the Global Community

Prompt: Please describe how an idea, argument, or perspective shared by any of the speakers today caused you to think in new or different ways.

First prize ($50 Target gift card) – Submitted by: (Prefers to Remain Anonymous) ’22

The easy thing to point out regarding the ideas discussed today would be the radical idea of fully open borders. While that did cause me to consider immigration in a new frame, the most impactful thing for me was the idea of inevitable negative consequences for positive good policies.  The reason I am here and writing this response is because I am a DACA recipient. I came to this talk because issues at the border – like child separation – are important to me. To learn that these issues exist because of policies like DACA has put me in a weird, uncomfortable moral conundrum that has no solution. I expected to leave with more questions than I had come in with but I did not expect to leave with an unanswerable personal dilemma that puts my morals in question.

Second prize ($25 Target gift card) – Submitted by: Sam Bailey ’21

I found that tonight’s discussion highlighted the differences in the many arguments surrounding the immigration debate: economic, moral, ethical, etc. Although tonight’s discussion seemed disjointed at times as a result, that only highlights the disjointedness in the public debate because as a country we cannot agree on the frame through which to argue about immigration.  I found Professor Brennan’s global economic argument very interesting because it focused on total product, not the individual levels (jobs) that the current public debate centers on.

Third prize ($10 Target gift card) – Submitted by: Sakura Honda ’21

The experience of listening to three different speakers with three different perspectives on immigration in the United States really gave me a chance to realize that I was biased about immigrants and society.

Especially, the discussion by Jan Ting about the narrow international definition of who a refugee is was an interesting thing to learn. As a Japanese international student at St. Olaf, I don’t feel the pressure of not having alternative options when it comes to life and death, so I never thought of how it actually feels to feel hopeless and helpless. If I were in those kinds of shoes, that would suck to realize that I still don’t qualify to be considered as a refugee by the international definition.

I also disagreed with what Jason Brennan said about his definition of a “humane” solution to the question of open borders. The things he listed as reasons to support open borders were relying on arguments about economic benefits and he didn’t really mention the individuality of immigrants.  I don’t want to talk about and support the benefits of immigration only from the perspective of economics.