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The Debate Before the Debate


Article & Photo by Nolan Webb


The fervor of the election season is impacting Roanoke College students. Nothing shows this notion more evidently than a pair of student-led mock-presidential debates hosted by the Public Affairs Society and Fishwick Literary & Debate Society.

The mock-debates featured representatives from College Democrats, College Libertarians, and College Republicans contending their respective party’s positions on various contemporary issues. Following the mock-debate, students gathered to watch the real presidential debate between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Members of the College Republican debate group included Alex Boone (Jr.), Noah Harvey (Fr.), and Tim Goeglein (Jr.). The Libertarians were led by Jakob Sibley (Jr.) and Greg Fletcher (So.), while the Democrats relied upon Wes Knowles (Sr.), Peter Johnson (Sr.), and Bridget Rose (Sr.). Co-moderating was myself of the Fishwick Society, and Chairman Kasey Reece and President Emma Sliwinski of the Public Affairs society.

The student debates, proudly, were much more civil and thoughtful in discourse than the debates seen on television. Students focused on issues and showed great respect for one another. This does not mean that the passion expected of college students wasn’t present.

Tempers flared when topics such as regulating equal pay for women, foreign policy in Syria, and recent conflict between police and communities were unpacked from various ideological perspectives. Bridget Rose and Peter Bradley of the College Democrats showed immense passion on many domestic policy issues such as paid family leave and regulating equal pay for women. Jakob Sibley (L) spoke in erudite about a different direction that he wishes to see in U.S. foreign policy. Sibley’s proposal outlined various flaws in current U.S. strategy by citing large costs and little true positive impact abroad.

The College Democrats seemed to be the only group that unequivocally supported their nominee. This is hard to judge however, as the Libertarians were not directly asked the question of whether or not they support Gary Johnson, and Roanoke’s libertarian population is involved both as College Libertarians (the Libertarian Party’s official affiliate) and Young Americans for Freedom, an independent group.

Alex Boone, president of the College Republicans, was keen to state that the views he expressed were those of a conservative and personal standpoint, and not necessarily of nominee Donald Trump’s. This position served as a successful refute of Democratic assaults upon policies specific to Trump, such as the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Overall, both debates represented the best of Roanoke College. Dedicated students with intelligent ideas and courage stood for their convictions in front of their fellow thinkers. No matter the ideology or the party affiliation, each individual who participated acted professionally and came prepared to represent their views and college well.