Good evening and welcome to Saint Anselm College! Our community of Benedictines, trustees, faculty, staff, and students is privileged to host you here tonight for this important event in our American democracy. There are far too many dignitaries here tonight to name them all, but I do want to offer a special welcome to the members of our New Hampshire Congressional Delegation: Senator Kelly Ayotte, and representatives Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass. We are honored tonight to have with us New Hampshire’s senior statesman, Senator Judd Gregg and his wife Kathy Gregg, both of whom have been great friends of Saint Anselm College and especially our New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
We are pleased to be working once again with ABC and WMUR to offer a forum for presidential candidates to present their views just days before New Hampshire’s voters go to the polls in the first-in-the-nation primary. I offer them very special thanks for arranging this Republican Presidential Primary Debate, and to you for being here in the audience.
During the school year, the seats you occupy tonight are filled with Saint Anselm freshmen and sophomores who are listening to lectures about humanity’s great thinkers, leaders and creators. Our students are asked to engage with these minds, to listen, to question, to challenge and consider – and ultimately to determine what they think and believe.
Tonight, we are all students, not only those of us here in the Dana Center, but the millions of viewers across New Hampshire, the country and the world. We will listen carefully, engage with what is said, question and consider – and ultimately decide who we believe is the person best suited to lead our dear nation in this complicated and contentious time.
We in New Hampshire take seriously our responsibility as the country’s first primary voters. We know that civic engagement is essential to patriotism, and that our democracy cannot and will not survive without the participation of its citizens.
At Saint Anselm, it is part of our educational mission to help students develop the skills and wisdom they need to live in and help lead our nation. Our New Hampshire Institute of Politics, founded more than 10 years ago, embodies that mission not only for our students but also the citizens of our state.
Tonight, we are pleased to once again serve as America’s classroom on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. Hosting debates is an Anselmian tradition. Welcome again, and please join me in a brief prayer:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation.
You are the creator of all life, and the source of all wisdom.
We are grateful for the many gifts you have given us especially grateful tonight for the gift we have to live in the freedom of the United States of America, and we pray for those who are defending that freedom in the armed services.
Send the help of your Spirit on President Obama and on all who would hope to hold our nation’s highest office, that they may be capable of serving with wisdom and prudence, with justice and compassion.
Give us the help we need to discern who will best serve our nation and your plan.
Keep all of the candidates and all of us gathered here at Saint Anselm College ever safe in your love.
Blessed are you, Lord God, for ever and ever.
Fr. Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B.
Saint Anselm College