Dinner and a Debate
Students gain perspective on GOP presidential candidates with debate viewing party and panel discussion.By Michelle Salzman
September 9, 2011
Watching intently on four flat-screen televisions, the crowd listened to GOP presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum take on topics such as illegal immigration, jobs, Social Security and energy, and trade a few barbs.
The USC students had gathered in the lobby of the Annenberg Building on Sept.7 to watch a live broadcast of the debate between Republican presidential candidates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
Hosted by the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, housed in USC Dornsife, and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, the viewing was part of the event series “Road to the White House 2012.”
Settling into her seat before the debate began, political science and cinematic arts major Victoria Hallebo ’14 said she looked forward to hearing from Texas Governor Rick Perry.
“Perry came on with a bang, and has taken the race by storm,” said Hallebo, who is vice president of the USC College Democrats. “I’m interested in seeing him in his first presidential debate.”
Following the hour-and-a-half debate, Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute; Roberto Suro, professor of journalism and public policy in USC Annenberg and the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development; and Neon Tommy editor Paresh Dave, a journalism student in USC Annenberg, led a panel discussion about the issues and participants in the debate.
Opening up a dialogue and making politics accessible to students is at the heart of holding such an event, said Schnur.
“We want our students to be exposed to the political debates going on in this country on either sides of the aisle,” he said. “By putting on events like this one, we bring the political discussion to the students to make it easy for them to access the conversation and be a part of it.”
Joann Park, a communication major in USC Annenberg, attended the event to stay informed and educate herself as a citizen. The event and follow-up panel offered her a unique opportunity to do so, she said.
“What separates this event from watching the debate at home is the discussion. The professors are very knowledgeable and it’s a pleasure to have them speak with us,” Park said.
Earlier in the day, Schnur participated in a panel discussion at the Reagan Library with national political editors from POLITICO, NBC News and representatives from the California Field Poll where they discussed California primary voters and results of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll.
The event series “Road to the White House 2012” continued the following evening with a live viewing for students of President Obama’s address to Congress on his plans for creating jobs and growing the economy.