Celebrities passed students in the hallways, the UC Breezeway became a hotspot for political shouting matches, and all media cameras were focused on UM when the first 2004 Presidential Debate took place at the Convocation Center last Thursday. Events leading up to the debate brought notable speakers and media from all over the country to discuss the issues most important to students.
“I think that the experience, in general, brought what democracy is to us,” Daniel Pedreira, junior, said. “You have the Declaration of Independence in the UC, different media outlets talking about politics, the candidates debating, so it just brings all these things together and it lets us see just a part of what is important in the country right now.”
Aside from those who got to attend the debate, enthusiastic students filled the Rock, the UC Patio, and the Rat Plaza to watch the debate on giant screens, enjoying the free food and entertainment.
“I liked the Debate Watch Party held here at the Rat,” Laura Forbes, senior, said. “I thought it was good how they included so many students even though we weren’t able to go to the debate. It’s made me really proud to go to school here.”
The debate encouraged many students, political activists or not, to express their views. Students had much to say concerning the outcome of the Kerry vs. Bush debate.
“As far as I’m concerned, I feel that each candidate has a lot to improve,” Albin Xavier, freshman, said. “Kerry did not give the American public a precise picture of what his policies are and I don’t think that Bush knows what he’s talking about at all. I think that Kerry needs to be able to put a strong picture in what his vision of America is, and I think Bush needs to get acquainted with the issues and get acquainted with what he is trying to say, and what his opponent is saying against him.”
“I thought that Kerry was unbelievable, but I liked Bush’s heartfelt and sincere responses,” Nicky Scapa, senior, said.
Some felt that the debate got repetitive as it continued.
“I thought it was extremely interesting to watch the both of them talk, even though I feel like they repeated a lot of the same things over and over again,” Bernardita Yunis, freshman, said.
“I thought [the debate] was kind of boring. I thought that nobody really had anything new to say and that they were just bickering back and forth and that nothing productive actually came out of it,” Vanessa Goas, sophomore, said.
“I think the president got a little flustered a lot and I think he ended up repeating his thoughts a lot, and I think that John Kerry told America what he believes in and defined where he stands,” Leslie Rogoff, sophomore, said.
The debates brought in a political environment that encouraged students to solidify their political views and get involved.
“I thought it was very interesting that they held [the first debate] here at UM, and that they let us participate,” Xochitl Valle, freshman, said. “The debate parties and activities helped a lot, because it made me reaffirm my decision to choose my candidate. I learned a lot more about politics, because I’m not a person that’s too involved, and I want to be, because I know it’s something important.”
Students definitely appreciated the significance of the debate at UM.
“Donna Shalala said we’d have a lot of bragging rights when we go home for Christmas break, and I think that that’s really true,” Forbes said.
“[This debate] shows that democracy is not dying,” Xavier said. “Democracy is the solution to government, and it shows that there is no apathy for the 18-year-old. We are the future-this is it.”
Christine Dominguez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.