WFU students build on university's history of hosting debates

By Maggie Barrett
October 6, 2004

Twice, Wake Forest University has hosted presidential debates — in 2000 and 1988. Now, Wake Forest students want to build on that history by establishing their own series of public debates. The first one will happen this fall and focuses on the 2004 presidential election.

Hosted by Wake Forest's College Democrats and College Republicans, it will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct.27 in the university's Wait Chapel. The event is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the university's communication department; the student debate team; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; the political science honor society, Pi Sigma Alpha; and the communication honor society, Lambda Pi Eta.

Wake Forest's debate team is nationally ranked and has won several awards. The team has a legendary winning streak at the National Debate Tournament; it has reached the eliminations rounds more than any other school's team in the last ten years. Wake Forest won the National Debate Tournament in 1997.

Senior Anjali Garg, president of Wake Forest's College Democrats and a member of the debate team, came up with the idea to start the series.

"Public debate is really important," Garg said. "It gives students the opportunity to present their own viewpoints, be challenged and either come out stronger in their beliefs, or come out more open-minded than before."

A debate between the university's College Democrats and College Republicans had been suggested previously, but was not made a priority until now.

"Because Wake Forest was the site of two presidential debates, it made sense to really push the issue and bring it into fruition in this important election year," Garg said.

"These are the issues that will determine the path of our country in the next four years," Doug Hutton of Wake Forest's College Republicans said.

During the debate, student members of the College Democrats and College Republicans will be on stage presenting different sides of a particular election issue. While the students will be the primary speakers, they won't be the only speakers. Two segments will be reserved for audience participation and comment.

Students say inviting the community is important for two reasons: it provides a greater variety of ideas, and presents an opportunity to see young people getting involved in politics.

Students working on the debate hope it will inspire more young people to get involved in the political process.

"The debate should connect with students when they see that their peers are involved," Hutton said.

Former Wake Forest faculty member and debate coach David Cratis Williams will be the moderator. He is an associate professor of communication at Florida Atlantic University.

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