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The Great Debate


On Monday, January 10, the eyes of the nation (and much of the world) were on Calvin College as the school hosted a Republican Presidential Debate on campus.

Candidates George W. Bush, John McCain, Steve Forbes, Orrin Hatch, Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer were interviewed by two local journalists and NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert.

Virtually every office at Calvin was involved in the enormous undertaking, from computer and cable work to security to media relations to building podiums. In fact, the podiums, some constructed specifically for the debate, may have been the stars of the evening from the college's perspective. The "Calvin College" on each podium was seen on the television commercials of various candidates over a month after the debate.

Over 250 media persons descended on Calvin and the college was ready, turning the Commons into a giant media center. One section was full of tables and wired for laptop, fax and phones; another area for food and viewing the debate on a big screen; and a third (called "spin alley") for news updates to be filmed and for the candidates to meet the media for post-debate press conferences.

The college received rave reviews from politicians and staff, media and technicians for all of the preparations and the excellent facilities. NBC's Russert even followed through on a promise to those watching the debate in the Fine Arts Center that, if the audience was respectful, he would mention the Calvin-Hope basketball score on Meet the Press the following Sunday morning.

Another highlight was the addition of a round of questions to the candidates that were written by Calvin students. The cable news station MSNBC carried the debate live from coast to coast; C-Span showed the debate a number of times on tape-delay.

It was an incredible national showcase for Calvin College and a one-of-a-kind educational experience for students, faculty and staff.

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Contact Steven Koster.