Having Hardball with Chris Matthews taped on campus was really cool. Hosting Crossfire and The Morning Show was equally exciting. And don’t forget Vanessa Carleton’s amazing post-debate performance at the Rat.
But aside from all the pomp and circumstance of this past week’s debate events, I thought the debate itself was surprisingly disappointing.
The day of the debate started out great. President Shalala hosted a luncheon for all the student essay winners and campus leaders-complete with guest speakers, granola bars, and 121 coveted debate tickets. She even went so far as to offer shawls (from her own personal collection!) to any student who feared freezing to death in the Convocation Center’s 59-degree environment, as requested by the candidates.
Finally-8:30 p.m. Perched atop my seat with Shalala’s shawl wrapped tightly around my frozen feet, I eagerly awaited President Bush and Senator Kerry’s grand entrance onto the stage. Ninety minutes and five granola bars later, I still sat eagerly awaiting-eagerly awaiting the Convocation Center’s exit doors to open.
Now, before you all brand me as an ungrateful baby, let me preface by stating that I felt incredibly honored to be given the opportunity to attend the actual debate. A rare event in American history, the content of the first presidential debate could have a deciding impact on the campaign. Key words: could have.
Could have…but didn’t. While both Kerry and Bush managed to present (or rather, repeat) their ideological differences in foreign policy, neither candidate really stood out as the apparent victor.
Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s the frost that had accumulated on my arms and legs during my few hours in the Convocation Center. But I thought that both candidates could have presented stronger, more passionate cases for themselves. Nothing new was revealed, and I felt neither impressed nor inspired at the debate’s end. In fact, the only memorable part of the evening was the incessant repetition of phrases like “I believe…” from Senator Kerry and “Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time” from President Bush.
Now don’t get me wrong-the entire debate experience provided me with a multitude of important life lessons: Avoid repeating annoying phrases in public speeches; reporters will leave you alone if you have food in your mouth; never drink two whole sodas prior to 90 minutes without bathroom breaks; and, most importantly, internal body temperature can indeed be preserved for up to three hours in shockingly cold conditions.
All jokes aside, having the first presidential debate of 2004 at our school was pretty cool. But one small tip for President Bush and Senator Kerry: Try turning down the A/C at your next two debates. Maybe your speeches will warm up too.
Taryn Southern can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.