Buck and Elleithee at the front of the room as students watch.
Category: News Clips, Past Events

Title: Historic Presidential Debate Leaves Students Wondering About the Future

“Tonight, all they did was rehash the past, but I didn’t hear anything about the future.”

Last night was a tense night for students and a historic night for the country. On Thursday, June 27, Hoyas and students from the Institutes of Politics at the University of Chicago and Harvard gathered at the McCourt School’s new Capitol Campus to watch one of the most anticipated presidential debates in history.

Ahead of the debate, Brendan Buck, former counselor for Speaker Paul Ryan and spring 2022 resident fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and GU Politics executive director Mo Elleithee set the stage by discussing potential strategies, what was at stake for the candidates and what might make headlines the next day. Students chimed in on the issues they hoped to hear about and chatted excitedly about the politics of the evening.

Minutes into the debate, the eager energy of the room dissolved to a hushed murmur as students gripped their seats waiting for what was to come next. Regardless of political leaning, the room was full of a generation looking to the candidates to convey something about their futures, a generation looking for hope that politics could be getting better. A student rests her hands on her mouth tensely watching.

During commercial breaks, Elleithee and Buck asked students how the candidates were making them feel and whether their sentiments about either person had shifted. Voice after voice chimed in, commenting on how the demeanor, cadence and relatability of each candidate was impacting them more than the policies they discussed. 

“I think Biden was talking a lot of sense, but he didn’t make any sense, and Trump was talking nonsense but he made a lot of sense,” said one student.

They put themselves into the shoes of different disillusioned voters, reflecting on how this moment needed to connect with individuals that felt alienated from the ballot box and whether it was really doing so.

“I don’t think Biden lost the election tonight,” offered another student. “I think he spoke well on his policy on abortion and that’s going to resonate with women voters.”

Following the debate, Buck and Elleithee chatted with students about what had unfolded and where the parties would go next. Students weighed in on what they thought each candidate did well, each person’s vulnerabilities and how they felt as voters and as people.

Overhead shot of students watching the debate.

We’d like to thank our Hoyas and friends from other campuses for showing up for this critical evening and contributing to civil political discourse about our democracy. In an election year unlike any other, we’re inspired by students that continue to show up to talk to people they may disagree with, are passionate about public service and are committed to making politics better for the future.