STORY BY JESSICA LYNK
After a week of blocked streets, pictures by the Twitter hashtag #DemDebate sculpture and random unidentifiable men at the dinning halls, the hype from the Democratic debate ends.
But not without many lasting impressions, especially by the students given the opportunity to sit in the debate hall.
“I was in the debate hearing actual substantive policy argued right in front of my face,” said Jackie Heymann, who interned for CBS for the week and got to sit in on the debate. “It was an actual, beautiful debate.”
Interns, the student body president, the Brocal Chords, student supporters and student speakers were among the Drake students who received tickets alongside those who were given a ticket through the lottery.
Sophomore Noah Skantz was one of the students who secured a ticket.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Skantz said. “Not many people who are 19 can say they got to attend a Democratic national debate.”
Junior Kenia Calderon did not get a ticket through Drake, but instead through her support of the presidential candidate former governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley’s campaign.
“It feels amazing because you can tell in this room that I am the only undocumented immigrant right now, and I am representing 11 million undocumented immigrants right now,” Calderon said. “It is stressful, but I am honored to be here representing my community.”
— The Times-Delphic (@timesdelphic) November 15, 2015
Not only did the debate give students the opportunity for students to represent the community, but it also allowed them to bear witness to the political process.
“It is a unique experience for our students to see politics up close,” said Rachel Paine Caufield, associate director for citizen engagement at the Harkin Institute and an organizer of the debate.
— Drake University (@DrakeUniversity) November 15, 2015
After this up-close experience, Skantz said that the behind-the-scenes look was what made it distinct.
“I had seen the debates on TV, but to be there and see the behind the scenes of it all coming together is a completely different perspective,” Skantz said. “You get to see them on the breaks chatting and going up to audience members between questions is a completely different perspective that you would never otherwise get to see. I guess the word I would use is an ‘uncut version.’”
This debate in particular showed attendees the intense atmosphere of a debate.
“Whether or not it was just because I was there, I felt like candidates were going much more at each other and also going more directly at the issues that were being asked,” said sophomore Eddie Mueller, another debate attendee.
This atmosphere allowed for Drake to gain national media coverage in a way that put the university in a spotlight.
“It gives us a great chance to show Drake to the world,” President Marty Martin said. “You heard them say ‘Drake University.’ But it was not just the words, but seeing the really quality debate take place that had a lot to do with Drake putting it together.”
I've literally performed in the auditorium the #DemDebate is at tonight. So cool to see Drake EVERYWHERE for this event!
— Mari Moroz (@marshizzle44) November 15, 2015
It also allowed Drake to play a part in the political conversations happening throughout the world.
“It brings a lot of visibility to the university,” Caufield said. “It positions us in the Des Moines community, the Iowa community, the national community and the international community as a place where these sorts of conversations are being had and where real people get to be a part of the process.”
One of the political conversations that stood out to students was the fact that the debate centered around international topics.
“The standout moment for me was all three of the candidates’ discussion on foreign policy and the future of armed forces and military, especially surrounding the incident in Paris,” Skantz said. “That was a standout moment not only for me, but for everyone watching.”
Being in the debate hall and hearing the specific policies of candidates helped strengthen political views.
“Going into the debate, I had some ideas of who I wanted to vote for, but the debate definitely clarified the difference within the party and the personal opinions,” Skantz said. “It made my decision as a voter far more informed as it otherwise would have been.”
— Kara (@normallykara) November 15, 2015
The debates are just the starting point for campus as we head full force into caucus season.
“A lot of people think of this as the finale and it is not,” Caufield said. “It is going to keep coming.”
The Iowa caucuses are a way for all students to get involved in politics, considering they happen on campus.
“I hope that students recognize that the caucus is about them,” Caufield said. “We will host both parties. I want this to be the most vibrant, wonderful unique, experience. I hope that it energizes a lot of people to participate in the process.”
Students may not want to get involved in the process because they believe it does not directly affect them, but this week proved otherwise.
“Politics is not something that happens far away,” Caufield said. “It is not inaccessible. It is about us. It is about everyday people.”