STUDENT EXPERIENCES Essay winner revels in debate experience

The first Presidential Debate was one of the most important events in the election, and I got to experience it firsthand.

I was notified the Tuesday before the Debate that I was an essay contest winner. The day of, I got a blazer that almost fit, let everyone in the world know I’d be there and went to a reception where we heard speakers tell us how lucky we were and how important the debate would be. We were served sandwiches and told to stuff granola bars in our pockets because we wouldn’t have another chance to eat.

We then boarded a shuttle that took us to a bus, which took us to the Convocation Center. We went through security, which really wasn’t any tighter than your average airport, and found our seats.

We waited with nothing to do for two hours. I watched all the networks that were broadcasting. Bill O’Reilly was so loud I could hear him over all the chatter from 50 feet away.

The event finally got started with speeches by the Chairmen of the Commission on Presidential Debates and President Shalala. The candidates’ wives were introduced and exchanged pleasantries with each other. Moderator Jim Lehrer arrived and threatened us to be quiet. Then it was time for the main event, and Bush and Kerry were introduced.

There was an eerie silence the entire time. I was too far to really notice facial expressions, and besides some body language I could only judge them by their words. The President had pretty bad posture. From my view it looked almost like he was leaning into the podium. Both debaters took notes, but Kerry’s seemed more in-depth.

After the debate, both candidates’ families joined them on stage. There were about 10 seconds when the Bush family exited, leaving the Kerrys alone on the stage; the cheering doubled.

We had to wait until both candidates left until we were allowed to go. Once outside some people had microphones in their faces, while others had fascist literature in theirs. Almost everyone had a smile on his face because we had just witnessed a historic event.

Kyle Munzenrieder can be contacted at