A sold-out crowd packs Town Hall Seattle to learn about U.S. presidential power

SEATTLE -- A sold-out crowd packed Town Hall Seattle on Wednesday night, but they weren’t there to be entertained -- they came to be educated.

“People are here to learn about presidential power. People want to better understand how our government works, what type of power the president has and what are the limits on presidential power,” said University of Washington law professor Kathryn Watts.

Watts is one of six UW professors participating in a panel on presidential power. She said that after the election of Donald Trump, many students wanted to learn more about presidential power. So in addition to this seminar, she’s also teaching a new course on the topic, too.

“After the election in the fall, many of our students came to us and said we really should, as law students, know more about executive power,” said Watts.

The goal, she said, is for people to not only to understand the laws, but also know how to make their voices heard.

“A website called regulations.gov, a government website, that bills itself as your voice in government decision-making is a place where anybody and everybody has the right to go and file comments in support or against changes and rules that govern everything from clean air to workplace safety standards,” Watts said.

Among the crowd Wednesday night, law students, practicing attorneys and even members of the public came armed with questions.

“What are the limits of presidential power and how much can one man change with the stroke of a pen?” asked Mary Lee Moseley, attorney and UW alumna.

“We live in a time when the president has suggested that facts are not facts and thrown around the term 'fake news' in a way that, I think, is incredibly dangerous. So for Americans to be able to arm themselves with real facts that come from experts, I think it’s incredibly important,” said Julian Michel, a law student.

From immigration to the environment, health care and even the meaning of an executive order, everyone we spoke with said they were hoping to leave with a better understanding of executive power. Because, as UW alumna Judy Bendich said, knowledge is power.

“It’s really important for people to become educated themselves. Learn! Find out what different opinions are. Find out that people have different ways of doing things and thinking about things. I’m hoping that is what comes of this,” says Bendich.