FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE tonight
University ready to play host to media and politicians
The most high profile, anticipated event in University of Miami history has finally arrived. After a year of planning, preparation, and excitement – coupled with stress, inconvenience, and uncertainty – the first 2004 Presidential Debate will take place at the Convocation Center tonight.
UM President Donna Shalala released a statement to all students Monday.
“This is an extraordinary moment. More than 40 million people worldwide will be watching,” Shalala said. “Take part, savor it, tune in, be proud. And brush off the inconvenience. It’s a small price to pay to be a part of history in the making.”
The Debate is the culminating event in a series of prolific events that have come to campus this semester, including visits from such notable figures as political strategists Mary Matalin and James Carville, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
The best access for the majority of students will come with tonight’s Debate Watch Party. The block party will stretch from the UC Patio to the Rat, complete with free food, entertainment, and seven large screens to watch the debate live. Grammy Award nominee Vanessa Carlton and Grammy Award winner Jill Scott will perform live. The party will be hosted by WWE stars Mick Foley, Mark Henry, and Chris Nowinski.
President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry will be debating on foreign policy issues, which is a change from the domestic policy focus announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates last month.
The candidates will not make opening statements, but will be allowed to make two-minute closing statements.
Jim Lehrer, anchor and executive editor of PBS television’s The NewsHour, will be the moderator of the 90-minute debate. He will select the topics of discussion and at least 16 questions for the candidates.
Over 2,500 media personnel are expected to be on campus to cover the debate. The Wellness Center will be their center of operation, dubbed “Spin Alley.” Many students have gotten the opportunity to work with the likes of Fox News Channel, Newsweek, and MSNBC.
Hardball with Chris Matthews will film live from the Rock today, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Crossfire and CNN Live will film live from the UC Patio through most of the day. Students can attend with a ‘Cane card.
Many students have expressed their concerns about the various inconveniences caused by the Debate, especially considering that few students will have the opportunity to attend the event.
Freshman Rodolfo Tomarchio feels that the Debate benefits the University more than the students.
“They are hosting it more for the venue, not for the students. It’s more to get higher admissions,” Tomarchio said. “It’s a great event for the University in general, but I don’t think it benefits the students.”
“It’s really exciting that it’s right here,” Vicki Kearney, senior, said. “I wish there was more of an opportunity for students to attend the debate, because it’s right here but we’re still going to watch it on TV.”
However, both Kearney and Rachel Federgreen, a senior, say that the Debate is the biggest event they have seen on campus in their four years at UM.
“It’s an opportunity I never thought I’d get,” Federgreen said.
>>For the latest information on the Debate, visit www.miami.edu/debate04.
Megha Garg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.