When Lucas Scanlon, MC/MPA 2012 candidate, arrived at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) this fall, he didn’t expect to find many sympathizers. A Tea Party activist from Texas, Scanlon anticipated staunch opposition to many of his political ideals, only to learn that many of his fellow students were open to learning more about the party and what it stands for.

“My classmates are here because they believe in something. They are American citizens fighting for what they believe in. I listen to them, and they listen to me,” Scanlon says. “Sometimes we agree, but we are always respectful of each other. With that respect, we find the common ground to really listen and understand. At that point, even if we still disagree, we understand why.”

In an effort to further serious political conversations on campus, Scanlon has founded a Tea Party caucus at the Kennedy School, inviting students of all persuasions to attend and participate.

“Harvard should be able to have the deeper conversation,” Scanlon says. “My hope is that I can help people find a way to be true to their own convictions and yet still find a way to listen and understand so that we have a chance of working together.”

While Scanlon aspires to incite a conversation about fiscal responsibility, his classmate Ben Beachy, MPP 2012 candidate, seeks to fast forward the policy debate about economic inequality. Beachy is one of hundreds of people taking part in the Occupy Boston protests in Dewey Square.

“Movements such as this one have historically shaped U.S. politics by carving out sufficient space in the public debate for policy changes to advance,” Beachy says.