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(Updated at 02:00 with new pictures, updated 00:40 with Jeff Lugowe, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, and Curt Rice and Marianne Aasen)
After what can be objectively described as a few dramatic and controversial campaigning months, November 8th and the end of the U.S. Presidential Election is finally here.
The cafeteria in Pilestredet 32 at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences is filled with balloons in red, white and blue, there are political party booths in the back and there is cheerfulness in the air.
It does not feel like the fate of the U.S.’, and by extension the world’s, next four years will be decided in the next few hours.
I am so excited. So many people are coming, people that have never been at HiOA before.
This night is a celebration of democracy.
Torbjørn Røe Isaksen
The traditional bipartisan US Election Night Event is taking place at HiOA tonight.
Between 1200 to 1500 attendants are expected to the event tonight. Behind it is a collaboration between the US Embassy in Oslo, the American Chamber of Commerce in Norway (AmCham), Republicans Abroad Norway and Democrats Abroad Norway.
Rector of HiOA, Curt Rice, is excited:
— I am so excited, says Rice, having never sounded so American before.
— So many people are coming, people that have never been at HiOA before, he continues.
Rice is looking forward to telling people about what HiOA does, and that the event will let Norwegians get a better understanding of American politics.
From the stage Rice kept his promise, and told 10 fun facts about HiOA, the tenth one that HiOA is the next Norwegian university. And the audience cheered.
— And after such heated campaigns, both Trump- and Clinton supporters are here…
The rector sees the question coming, and addresses it immediately.
— The atmosphere in this election has been ugly, and that is disturbing. It is laudable that both sides celebrate this night together, and that gives me hope that even though people support different candidates, it is possible to celebrate democracy together, says Rice adding:
— I am so glad that HiOA can make that happen.
Finishing his welcome-speech, Curt Rice revealed what the button he has worn for the last couple of weeks reads:
— Tonight I want to leave behind my obligation of neutrality, and proclaim ‘may the best woman win’, he said, to a cheering audience. Even though he said that he did not say it.
Norwegian Minister of Education and Research, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, kept his speech cheerful and fun as well:
— Børge Brende, our minister of state, said to me that it is best not to comment on other people’s elections, he said and continued quoting a poll showing that Norway has the highest proportion of American elections-experts in the world.
He spoke about the American democracy as a more vibrant one than we are used to in Norway, as something which is «both good and bad».
— This night is a celebration of democracy, he proclaimed, ending his speech to a fully packed cafeteria at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Pilestredet 32.
Jeff Lugowe (picture below) is alumni coordinator at HiOA, and board member of Democrats Abroad in Norway.
— What do you think of HiOA hosting the event tonight?
— I am of course biased since i work here, but I want HiOA to be relevant, and I think it is cool.
Lugowe is from Philadelphia. He is immediately taking his answers into promoting HiOA-mode, but is easily stopped. He does however emphasize that it has been great working with HiOA as the host for tonight:
— They have bent over backwards trying to make this the best event possible for us, he says.
— Your partisanship aside, what do you think will be the outcome of the election?
— It has been a nerve wrecking week, with the FBI dropping the bombshell that turned out to being nothing.
He believes Hillary Clinton’s campaign is more organized than Donald Trump’s, and that it will lead her to victory. Lugowe explains how Clinton has volunteers and campaign staff out getting people to vote.
— Where Trump prints hats, Clinton is organized, he says.
Jeff Lugowe believes that Clinton will win, and by a little more than the polls project. Additionally he believes that the Democrats will retake the Senate, and not take, but retake seats in the House of Representatives.
Ketil Solvik-Olsen, the Minister of Transport and Communications for the Progress Party, is speaking to an audience increasingly uninterested in what is happening on stage.
— Tonight a new chapter is written, Solvik-Olsen says.
— Either the U.S. will elect the first woman as president, or the first businessman in recent years.
He tells a story of when he first experienced a presidential election when he was living in the U.S., and that he was told to remember that it was best not to think of the American system as worse or better, but as different.
— This election has definitely been different, he says.
He says that throughout an election you see leaders rise, or disappear. Solvik-Olsen hopes that the next president is someone worthy of taking a seat in the ranks of presidents the U.S. can be proud of.
The minister says that in a democracy leaders are elected, the result accepted, and then we move on.
— This is the perfect venue, especially with an American as rector, says Marianne Aasen, member of the standing Committee on Education, Research and Church Affairs, and a politician for the Labour Party.
She and rector Rice were talking together as loud music and a noisy crowd was making it hard for Khrono to overhear, so instead Khrono joined in.
— It is very good to have this event at a university, she pauses, then continues:
An obvious burn at rector Curt Rice and HiOA’s ambitions of becoming a university. Aasen continues describing the intensity of the election results ahead, that she has been through a few herself.
— There are a lot of feelings involved, intensely good for some, intensely bad for others.
Parliament member Aasen says that even though this has been a rough campaign for the USA, it is important to remember that it is an old democracy.
— Younger democracies can not handle this kind of intense election the same way an old and stable democracy like the U.S. one can, she says.
Curt Rice contributes with a question:
— Do you as a politician find any inspiration in watching Hillary, he asks.
— It is easy to admire her as a woman, fighting to get through the glass ceiling, Aasen says.
— American politicians tend to speak in grander terms. Some things work in English do not work in Norwegian, she says, exemplifying that in English you can say that you love a crowd, but that it becomes weird in Norwegian.
— We do tend to exaggerate more, says Rice, adding that «We will see enormous results» just does not work in Norwegian either.