Debaters Urge Students To Become Informed Voters
Passion and eloquence dominated the political debate between Democrat Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend and Republican Angela Bay Buchanan Sept. 22. Democrats, republicans, independents, and undecideds turned out to hear them speak at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts.
The panel was one of a number of events scheduled over two days that the University organized to encourage members of the UConn community, especially students, to participate in the upcoming presidential election.
Buchanan, a political commentator for CNN's Inside Politics and sister of conservative author and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, argued fast and hard. She hit her points home one after another, retorting with one-liners, and personalizing her information.
Kennedy-Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and daughter of Robert Kennedy, maintained a calm demeanor that lent her statements an aura of quiet authority.
Although they represent opposite ends of the political spectrum, both women supported student knowledge and involvement. They told students to debate and do research before forming opinions.
"How can you make sure that when you go through life you're not somebody that, because of a little pressure, goes this way or that way?" asked Buchanan. "You start now."
Kennedy-Townsend opened with a speech about the two candidates, and the qualities she wanted in a president.
She commented on Bush's lack of interest in Osama Bin Laden. "Thousands of people died in this country because of Osama Bin Laden," she said. "I want a president who pays attention. I want a president who's going to fight the real enemy."
She quoted statistics suggesting that since Bush has been in office five million Americans have lost their health care and three million Americans have gone into poverty.
"I want a president who speaks to the best instincts in us," she said, "who tells us the truth and holds people accountable, and holds himself accountable."
Buchanan responded quickly, "That was interesting. I love to hear from liberals."
John Kerry was not the man Kennedy-Townsend described, Buchanan said, asserting that he could not be honest on any issue because he had yet to take a stand on any issue.
She went on to criticize democrats, using catch-phrases like "guns and butter" to mean war and the economy, the country's two biggest issues.
She brought up what she claimed was Kerry's lack of a solid campaign, emphasizing his fixation with his war record from Vietnam, and his unknown stance on both war and economic issues.
"A campaign has a point, and it's called election day," she quipped.
According to Buchanan, the polls show that the American people believe Bush to be the stronger commander-in-chief.
"If I were you, I'd vote for the winner," she said, "because he is the man of the hour for this country."
The two panelists fielded questions from the audience on topics ranging from gun control to gay rights to outsourcing.
One participant asked why the rich should give up what they have worked so hard for to help those less fortunate. Kennedy-Townsend replied that the U.S. was "a country where we are all together." She said the people of the U.S. should look at themselves as "moral human beings" and set their goals higher than themselves.
"That's what makes a nation," she said. "I don't want to be part of a country that has me living in a beautiful rich house, while somebody else has to lay their head on a sewer system."
Retorted Buchanan, "That's what you call socialism."
It is better to give a person a job and let them work at it, Buchanan said, than to give them a lump sum of money every month.
Both sides did their share of question dodging and political hedging, said Alex Zujewski, an accounting student and a member of the College Republicans, after the debate. Both attacked the other side more than they supported their own, but that was to be expected, he added.
"You have to make your own decisions," he said.
Personal responsibility was a theme that was emphasized during the evening. Students were encouraged to make their own choices based on their own research and, above all, to vote for what they believe in.
Said forum moderator David Yalof, an associate professor of political science, who moderated the forum, "If you don't vote, your voice definitely won't be heard."