Centre and the community collaborate for the debate
The upcoming Vice Presidential Debate at Centre College on Oct. 11 will be a time for Centre College, along with the Danville community, to shine.
Collaboration and community engagement with Danville have been huge priorities for Centre in regards to the debate, says Patrick Noltemeyer, associate dean and director of community service and Bonner program.
“The College is hosting the event, but we definitely see this as a community event—something we want citizens in Danville and Boyle County to be invested in and part of,” Noltemeyer says. “Staging an event of this magnitude requires the cooperation, effort and attention of individuals and organizations across campus, our community, the state and the nation—and we could not pull it off without their help.”
Community involvement with the debate has been widespread and varied, including taking Centre students out into town to register voters.
“We have conducted several voter registration drives in our local area and have made a push to be sure Centre students are registered to vote, either locally or in their hometown,” Noltemeyer says.
The charge to register voters will continue on Monday, Oct. 8, when Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Centre students will be at the Danville Walmart to register voters from 4-7 p.m.
“The deadline to register to vote in Kentucky is Oct. 9, so we hope to facilitate the opportunity for as many people as possible to register to vote before the deadline,” Noltemeyer says.
Debate preparation is also bringing community members to campus—including children from area schools.
“Many local schools have incorporated the debate into their curriculum, along with discussions of government and the political system,” Noltemeyer says. “The Bonner Scholars Program is facilitating art and essay contests for local students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and we have received some impressive and thoughtful submissions.
“This week, we will welcome over 825 students from local elementary and middle schools to campus for guided tours of the Debate and Media Halls, as well as a visit to our newest statue honoring President Abraham Lincoln,” Noltemeyer continues. “Centre education majors have developed the curriculum for these tours and Centre students will be leading these visits to further connect local children to the event.”
Thomas Becker ’15 took the reigns on creating a guide to the issues that will emerge in the debates. The guide will be distributed both to local schools for use in social studies classes as well as to the general public.
Kate Wintuska ’13 wrote the script for students to use while leading school children on tours around campus. The students hope that these projects will help educate about important political issues and improve understanding of the political process.
“We can read students books and help facilitate simulations of elections, but giving students the opportunity to explore and ask questions about an event happening in ‘their world’ is much more exciting and meaningful,” Wintuska says. “As an elementary education major, I spend three mornings a week observing and helping in a classroom at Woodlawn Elementary School. Last week, we wrote questions to the president as a part of writing contest Centre sponsored for the Debate. Our letters are now in Washington, D.C., and we are waiting for a response!”
Becker and Wintuska are glad that having the debate at Centre will make political discourse and civic responsibility important to the local community.
“This year, students do not have to be told why being a good citizen is important or why debates are part of the political process—students are able to experience these lessons for themselves,” Wintuska says. “Hopefully for students, touring the debate facilities will bring to life the political process making the idea of being an engaged and informed American citizen seem important enough to warrant their time and efforts in the future.”
“I found a quote from President Roush that emphasizes civility in public discourse, something that I feel we’re really lacking at this point in the election,” Becker says. “In short, I’m really pushing for informed voting, not voting for the sake of civic duty. This is an important election, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility to be able to help people learn more and make knowledgeable decisions.”
With the debate just around the corner, Centre students are excited about having all eyes on the College and the community.
“I am really looking forward to the atmosphere at campus as debate day approaches,” Wintuska says. “There is something energizing about hosting the debate that will last much longer than 10.11.12.”
“Above anything else, I’m really looking forward to the spotlight that 10.11.12 will put on Centre,” Becker says. “I really am blessed to be able to spend four years at this incredible place, and with this event being held here, the country has the opportunity to see this amazing school firsthand.”
For more information about the Vice Presidential Debate, visit Centre’s debate website here.