Candidates faced off in first Presidential Debate

The most anticipated, high-profile event in University of Miami history had finally arrived. After a year of planning, preparation and excitement-coupled with stress, inconvenience and uncertainty-the first 2004 Presidential Debate took place in the Convocation Center on Sept. 30.

UM President Donna E. Shalala released a statement to all students.

“This is an extraordinary moment. More than 40 million people worldwide will be watching,” Dr. 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 was the culminating event in a series of events that came to campus, 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.

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. Grammy Award nominee Vanessa Carlton and Grammy Award winner Jill Scott performed live. The party was hosted by WWE stars Mick Foley, Mark Henry and Chris Nowinski.

“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.”

More than 2,500 media personnel were on campus to cover the debate. The Wellness Center was their center of operation, dubbed “Spin Alley.” During the debate activities, many students even got the opportunity to work with the likes of Fox News Channel, Newsweek and MSNBC.

Hardball with Chris Matthews was filmed live from the Rock, while Crossfire and CNN Live filmed live from the UC Patio through most of the day.

“I think that the experience, in general, brought what democracy is to us,” Daniel Pedreira, senior, 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.”

The Debate brought in a political environment that encouraged students to solidify their political views and get involved. 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,” Albin Xavier, sophomore, 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.”

For more information on the Debate, visit

Christine Dominguez contributed to this article.

Megha Garg can be contacted at