Monday, October 15, 2012

The Debate

In 2008, when Hofstra hosted the third Presidential debate, I received an email from a person I attended high school with, many years earlier. This person was not a close friend and there had been no contact for all the years between high school and early October 2008. In the email, the person indicated that he had been thinking about me for the last 40 years and, by the way, did I have a spare ticket to the debate. I responded (nicely) indicating that all our tickets go to our students who are selected by way of a lottery of all Hofstra students interested in attending the debate. This email was one of many that I received last time and the email requests are starting again now that we are approaching the October 16th debate that will be hosted by Hofstra.

I think it is terrific that we hosted a Presidential debate four years ago and it is as least as terrific that we are again hosting a debate. Almost all of the students who were here during the last debate have graduated and the students who are here now are as excited and energized as they can be. More and more, when I am attending events on campus or just eating on campus or walking on campus, I hear members of our community—especially our students—talking about the upcoming debate. A number of our courses are tied to debate-related themes and many of our guest speakers are focused on the Presidential election and the issues confronted by our country and our planet. Students have already suggested that Hofstra host a debate every four years and I think there is wisdom in their position. Hosting a debate on campus and all the associated activities clearly demonstrates to the students that this is their world and their issues and that it makes sense for them to be concerned and involved.

I am very positive regarding the quality of a Hofstra education but I also feel strongly that an outstanding education is more than a classroom experience. I recognize how necessary it is for many students pursuing their college degree to also work part-time in addition, so I am especially pleased when a significant number of these students are also involved in civic engagement activities and other volunteer activities. I am convinced that having the debate on campus increases participation in these activities as it also increases voter registration. I am by nature an optimistic economist and I don’t consider that combination to be an oxymoron. But it is clear that the problems we confront are daunting. An educated population is absolutely essential to successfully confronting these problems and I remain a passionate advocate for higher education. But I am more and more convinced that along with the education there needs to be a buy-in that we are all in this together and that we all need to be invested in developing solutions. A Presidential debate on a campus tremendously increases the buy-in to developing solutions among that community. What more can we do so that a wonderful every four year event on the Hofstra campus and/or other campuses is just one of many happenings designed to convince our students that a prosperous future involves their commitment today?

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