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William & Mary students feel bond with alum Jon Stewart

Jenna Johnson

There were a few ways to stand out at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the Mall Saturday in hopes of catching comedian Jon Stewart's attention: Do something crazy. Wear a crazy costume (like these). Carry a crazy sign (like any of these or these).

A few Virginia college students (and alums) tried something different: wearing sweatshirts and assorted gear from their school, the College of William and Mary.

Because -- duh -- that's where Stewart went.

Jon Stewartyearbook.jpg"For William and Mary students, there's a feeling that he's one of us," said Megan Behm, a senior English and theater major who planned to attend the rally with her younger brother. "I think he really has a William and Mary sense of humor."

There are the facts about Stewart's time at W&M in the early 1980s (which, keep in mind, was before the birth of most of today's college students): He played on the soccer team. He studied psychology. He graduated in 1984. And he came back to campus in 2004 to give a funny commencement address.

And then there's the folklore about Stewart's time on campus that current students like to imagine -- trying to guess where he partied, what he was like as a roommate, what sort of questions he asked in class.

"I think he has kind of become part of the lore of the school," Behm said.

Stewart occasionally mentions W&M or Williamsburg on "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central -- usually prompting lots of excited Facebook-status-updating on campus. In April, Stewart made fun of the college's new mascot, the Griffin, calling it a "rare pants-less tailed eagle."

"I'm sorry, but in my day, running though campus with no pants on was the students' job," he said.

Jon Stewartsoccer.jpgAnd when Stewart announced he would host a rally just a few hours away from campus in D.C., there was another round of buzz.

"It's so exciting," said Emily Gottschalk-Marconi, a junior government major who planned to go to the rally with her parents and boyfriend. "Everywhere I go on campus, everyone is talking about it. We're all big Jon Stewart fans. ... He's just so witty and fresh."

Late last week, W&M students organized carpools and caravans to the rally, and planned out their costumes and signs.

Stewart has said the rally was in no way a political event -- but many people used it as an opportunity to push their own political issues (or protest the rent being too damn high). For some college students, attending the rally might have been the most politically active they have been since the 2008 presidential election.

Earlier in October, a poll of college students by the Associated Press and MTVu found that the "Obamamania" that once swept through campuses is waning. Of the 2,000 undergraduates surveyed, 44 percent said they approved of the job Obama is doing as president -- a sharp decline from 60 percent in a May 2009 poll. Meanwhile, 27 percent said they were unhappy with his stewardship, up from 15 percent in the previous poll.

Many students who helped campaign in 2008 are now nearing or at the end of their college careers, facing a not-so-great job market and a pile of student loan debt, said Gottschalk-Marconi.

"I think people are just a little troubled that more hasn't been done to rejuvenate the economy. I mean, I know a lot of things have been done, but they just haven't come to fruition," she said. "I still have hope. I don't know, maybe I'm just one of the few change-y, feel-y people left."

Gottschalk-Marconi is debating graduating a semester early so that she can work on a 2012 campaign. Something else she would like to see in 2012: Stewart again speaking at graduation.

"Hint, hint," she said with a laugh.

Historic Stewart photos courtesy of University Relations at the College of William and Mary.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  | November 1, 2010; 12:47 PM ET
Categories:  News Overload  | Tags:  College of William and Mary  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Halloween costumes with a college twist
Next: Happy election day!

Comments

Students "grow up", have "responsibilities", are finally in the Real World, and guess what, they become Conservative.
Many people would say that liberals "prey"
on the inexperienced, on the innocent, and those who don't understand english!
There's a lot of truth to it.

Posted by: ohioan | November 1, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

So to be an adult is to be conservative? Toss out the label and break that down into specific philosophy please. Sounds like you have a handbook or something.

Posted by: tpondering | November 2, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I actually get more liberal the older I get. I went to W&M in the Jon Leibowitz era, when The Great Conservative King Reagan was president. I thought he was great. I grew up and got smarter.

Posted by: Sam888 | November 3, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

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