Well, the second presidential debate turned out to be every bit as entertaining and informative as the vice-presidential debate that preceded it less than a week earlier. The two candidates were forceful in their convictions and vision for the direction of the country with each fervently approaching one another to interject contrasting viewpoints while their opponent was speaking. At times, it was quite evident that the two men do not hold each other in high esteem, and a few of their exchanges appeared uncomfortably confrontational. I would like to think that the candidates heeded my critiques of the first debate and turned this into a pugilistic event that the audience wanted to see! The debate was interesting because it immersed the candidates into a new format: the town hall setting where undecided voters proffered the questions to the candidates with follow-ups by the moderator. I found the format to be much more unpredictable and lively, and I was able to glean more insight into Governor Romney’s vision domestically and abroad. In the same vein, the facilitators decided to rearrange our format in order to foment more discussion this week by breaking into smaller groups first and then coming together in the aggregate to discuss the report and our expectations for the debate.
The discussion report selected for this debate was Helping America Talk How we can Improve Public Discourse, and my group consisted mainly of law students and young urban professionals. The format was so much more conducive for public discussion because we broke into our individual groups and had dinner while we discussed the aspects of the discussion report. Policy possibilities merged into singular ones as the participants recounted life experiences that covered multiple possibilities. For instance, one law student explained that while in undergrad, she attempted to join steering committees and city planning meetings as resume builders. In the process, she became engaged in policy in the city of Atlanta where she was matriculating. This method was her own way of opening up public discourse to all with the incentive or “carrot” of having more substance on her resume.
Our discussion touched on making Collaborative Public Discourse a course requirement in higher education, and the participants who were all relatively fresh out of college were amenable a class on public discourse. Some participants lamented the fact that there were no such offerings at their particular undergraduate institutions. This is an untapped market that potentially could spread the IF… method far and wide. While IF… has experimented with teaching the method to college campuses, I believe that offering such services through the internet would be an invaluable public relations tool and could exponentially expand the reach of the foundation.
The recurring regret that I have with respect to these debates is the lack of diversity of viewpoints. I am getting discouraged that I know few people whose political viewpoint differ dramatically from my own, and thus I find it hard to find people to attend these debates with a reasoned counterbalance. I have reached out to one of my friends who is a young, black republican who attended the convention and usually has meaningful counterpoints when we have political discussions. Hopefully he will make it out for the final debate on foreign policy!