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It’s been a few years since he began his studies at Amherst College, but being a freshman U.S. Senator has brought back some vivid memories for Christopher Coons ’85. In delivering this year’s DeMott Lecture to an appreciative crowd of first-year students in Johnson Chapel on Monday, Coons noted that being a recently elected legislator and being a first-year are similar in many ways.

Coons—and Amherst—rocketed to national prominence in fall 2010 when Christine O’Donnell, his opponent for the Delaware senatorial seat, targeted an article in The Amherst Student titled “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist.”

After his speech, Coons fielded questions from students for about 20 minutes and then invited all those who hadn’t had their queries answered to Charles Pratt Dormitory. That conversation began at 10:30 p.m. and was still going strong at midnight—evidence of the students’ intense curiosity and Coons’ willingness to engage with them. See photos of the conversation.