Click image to watch Peter on MSNBC

Click image to watch Peter on MSNBC

With midterms making us sometimes feel we are surrounded by grade-obsessed zombies, it can be difficult to remember our student body is filled with incredible people using their talent to help others. Peter Kiernan represents a perfect example of the reminder we need. 

In 22 days, the fate of our country will be decided through the selection of our next President. Regardless of which candidate you support, we can agree both have made questionable mistakes. GS student and former U.S. Marine Peter Kiernan has focused on Donald Trump’s mistake of withholding his tax returns, but instead of bashing him on Twitter and over dinner with friends like the average student, he has turned his frustration into a challenge to the Republican nominee. Through Crowdpac, an online fundraising website for users to support politicians or specific initiatives, Peter has asked anyone to pledge whatever they can to his fund supporting ten different veteran organizations, however they will only have to honor their contribution if Trump releases his tax returns. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman saw the brilliance in Peter’s fundraiser, and promised to match the campaign’s total by five times, not exceeding five million dollars.

The deadline for contributions was Wednesday night, as Peter hoped he would’ve released his returns by the last presidential debate before the election. The goal was to confront the veteran supporter with all of the contributions (and huge backing) he’d received. “At no cost to himself, he could easily donate millions of dollars to Veterans,” Peter said during a conversation we had earlier this week.

A veteran himself, Peter feels a special attachment to his issue. In an interview on Rachel Maddow’s MSNCB Show, he shared his fear that Trump may not be paying his taxes. “When I was in Afghanistan, taxes paid for my body armor, for the emergency life flight that my buddies got flown out on when they lost their legs,” he said. “Leaders are meant to lead by example, and you inspire those to follow you. If Trump is free riding on the political system, I think that’s dangerous precedent as a leader.”

We also talked about transparency amongst the candidates, and how Secretary Clinton is often criticized for her lack thereof, while many consider Trump to be “brutally honest.” We also talked about the political discourse exchanged amongst students in the election, and he pointed about the dismissive behavior many of us have subconsciously adopted when hearing views that conflict with our own. “There’s no engagement in conversation. People just talk past each other and view Trump supporters as uneducated. It’s unfair to write these people off and believe their views aren’t legit, or assume they’re weak because of their opinions. That’s not a way to have a productive conversation, that’s a way to ignore each other,” he said. His value in communication is consistent with his voice on the blog he used to update the fundraiser on Crowdpac. “Although we failed to get Trump to release his returns,” he wrote on Wednesday night, “we did successfully raise the issue in the public discourse. While Trump isn’t going to live up to his word, fortunately this nation has plenty of people left who posses integrity and are willing to support veterans regardless of the conditions.”

Peter will be graduating this spring with a degree in political science. Click here to view his Crowdpac page.