By Richard Pryor III
Last week, Sewanee students received an email from Michelle Howell of the Office of Civic Engagement informing them of the series “DebateWatch.” Sponsored by the Center for Speaking and Listening, the Office of Civic Engagement, as well as leaders from the Sewanee Republicans, Sewanee Democrats, and Sewanee No Labels. According to Phillip Sharp (C’18), a member of the College Republicans who worked on organizing the series, “DebateWatch is a series of viewing parties for the three presidential debates and the one vice-presidential debate. Individuals will arrive between 7:30 and 7:45 p.m., before the televised debate begins, and the debate will end at 9:30 p.m. Participants will then take part in a 30-minute dialogue and discussion debriefing the debate, sending participants on their way by 10 p.m. This is to ensure that people are able to participate in and truly relate to the debates and the election process as a whole.”
In a piece written for the Eugene Register-Guard and the Milwaukee Journal Sentenial in 2008, Dr. Sean O’Rourke, Professor of American Studies and Director of the Center for Speaking and Listening, wrote about the importance of watching the debates. “Many of us might be tempted to ignore them, to assume that we have heard too much already, or to believe that debates between candidates mean nothing. Don’t do it. We are in crisis. So don’t let the cynics mislead you – the debates do matter. Debates require the candidates to develop substantive arguments. While debate purists might complain about the ‘joint press conference’ formats, debates nonetheless reveal differences. They enable us to see where the candidates agree, where and to what extent they disagree, and how those disagreements matter. And they do so far better than a bumper sticker, endorsement or TV commercial ever could.”
The 2016 debates, between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, will be held on September 26 at New York’s Hofstra University, moderated by NBC’s Lester Holt; on October 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, moderated by ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper; and on October 19 at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace. The Vice Presidential debate between Republican nominee Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Tim Kaine will be held on October 4 at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, moderated by CBS’s Elaine Quijano.
DebateWatch will be held at the Sewanee Inn and includes a catered dinner. RSVPs should be emailed to Michelle Howell, the Coordinator of Student Programs in the Office of Civic Engagement.