Project 240 is Castleton University’s way of celebrating the 240th year of our republic, while also trying to encourage students to be a part of the 2016 presidential election.
To do this, Castleton has joined forces with The Paramount Theater in downtown Rutland to put on a series of events for the community, and the university.
Some of these events include, screenings of presidential debates, national conventions, mock primaries, and coverage of the election itself.
The first event was Sept. 16, which was the republican debate, and the next is Nov. 14, the democrat debate.
All but three of these events are free to the public and some are listed as Soundings events for university students.
At the first event, the executive director of The Paramount, Bruce Bouchard and Rich Cowden, the director of the Fine Arts Center spoke a little bit about what Project 240 means to them and what they hope to get out of it.
Bouchard believes that this will be one of the most interesting elections in history.
“I want to remind you now that we will be culminating on election night 2016 for we hope for the best party that we have ever thrown in the history of The Paramount,” Bouchard said followed by cheers and applause from the 250 people in the audience.
Bouchard hopes to inform the students about the importance of voting andpotentially change their views on it altogether.
Bouchard and Cowden were extremely relieved to not only be finally beginning this project, but to see how many students chose to come to this even over the other Soundings choices.
They hope that by being at the first, they will be engaged and want to come to the other Project 240 events.
“One of the purposes of Project 240 is to elevate the discourse around the political process and so, students that are here, I say that some of us haven’t done a great job with the political system over the years,” Cowden said in his opening statement. “ We kind of messed it up. We’ve allowed an environment to be created that’s full of hatred.”
Cowden believes that young generations are the key to changing our world filled with hate into a world filled with love.
“One of the things that I think we aspire to with Project 240 is to give this back to you young people,” Cowden said, “Take it. Fix it. Help us. That’s what we want.”
Project 240 spans over 14 months and has 17 events that the public can attend. Their hope is that with each one, there will be an increasing amount of students there.
“I never experienced such a kind reception to what I thought was a modestly good idea.” said Bouchard with a chuckle of almost disbelief that the start date has finally come, and there were so many people in the audience.
“There seems to be a disengagement and not an engagement and we need to engage again because, this is important stuff,” said Mike Smith, political analyst and guest moderator at the Republican debate, “I welcome what The Paramount is doing here and Castleton University. I haven’t seen it throughout the state yet, and it is just amazing.”
Bouchard and Cowden believe that it’s not even just voting that matters. It is educating yourself, and participating in the change that will come to this country and everyone in it. Project 240 is about just that.
“Project 240 is about spending a year together as a community where we can be positive and proactive,” Cowden said, “we can learn from each other, we can agree to disagree, we can shout with love, we can be passionate about our beliefs, and we don’t have to tear each other down in the process.”
Before the debate, Castleton students did not know what Project 240 was. With the recent debate, at least 150 Castleton student know now, and probably many more.