2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate on Belmont’s campus scored highest viewership, brought media spotlight to Nashville
Belmont University confirmed today that it will apply to host a 2016 presidential or vice presidential debate and will officially submit its proposal to the Commission on Presidential Debates prior to the March 31 deadline. Belmont previously hosted the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, moderated by NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, between then candidates Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama. The 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, the first to be held in Tennessee and the only one in which questions to the candidates were asked by citizen participants, scored a ratings coup both nationwide and locally.
Belmont University President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “It was an incredible honor for our campus to participate so directly in such a vital element of our nation’s governing process six years ago. We believe our students, this University, the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee all received tremendous civic, educational and economic benefits from the entire experience. Belmont has clearly established itself as a place where students and citizens can engage in important conversations that are imperative to our community and our nation. We are excited to compete again for this opportunity, and I have every reason to believe that Belmont can once again succeed as a presidential debate site.”
According to Nielsen Media Ratings, more than 63.2 million homes nationwide tuned in to view the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate on Tues., Oct. 7, the largest television audience of the three presidential debates held that fall. In addition, the event attracted thousands of media and other visitors to Nashville and resulted in both an economic boost and more than 5,200 media hits in the days leading up to and following the debate. A writer for USA Today even noted, “Belmont University in Nashville proved that small places with big ambitions could be world-class stages.”
Following Belmont’s successful hosting of the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, the University confirmed today that it has submitted an application to the Commission on Presidential Debates to hold one of the series of scheduled 2012 debates featuring the presidential candidates.
Belmont is among 12 possible locations nationwide for the 2012 Presidential Debates. As in 2008, the multi-faceted Curb Event Center is the proposed venue for the debates, with supporting roles played by other campus facilities. Belmont’s leadership, faculty, staff, students and alumni will participate in supporting this unique and internationally significant event.
Civic organizations, state and local government officials have supported Belmont’s bid for the debates following the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate and its impact on both the university and the broader community. At the conclusion of that event, then-Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, who served as an honorary chair for the debate’s host committee, said, “Belmont served as a perfect venue for the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, and the university’s army of volunteers gave the candidates, campaign guests and visiting media a glimpse into the best of what Tennessee has to offer.”
Belmont President Robert Fisher led the charge to attract the Presidential Debates to Nashville and Belmont. His interest in exposing students to real life experiences and challenging them to think beyond the classroom has positioned Belmont as a university with a unique service mandate that prepares graduates to be contributing members of society after graduation.
“2008 brought Belmont University and the Nashville community together in a powerful way around one of the most historic elections in our nation’s history,” Fisher said. “I am confident that the capability, dedication and spirit of the Belmont community and our Middle Tennessee partners will enable us to achieve an even better event in 2012 if selected.”
The following universities have submitted applications to host a 2012 general election debate:
Belmont University (Nashville, TN)
Centre College (Danville, KY)
Dominican University of California (San Rafael, CA)
Eastern Kentucky University (Richmond, KY)
Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY)
Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)
Lynn University (Boca Raton, FL)
Saint Mary’s College of California (Moraga, CA)
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (Pomona, NJ)
University of Denver (Denver, CO)
Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC)
Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)
David McCullough, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and New York Times’ best-selling author, appeared Monday night to more than 3,000 people in the Curb Event Center arena, enchanting them all with his charm, historical knowledge, educational philosophy and, surprisingly, even his singing. The final keynote presenter in Belmont’s “Art of Being Free” lecture series celebrating the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, McCullough spoke on “Leadership and the History You Don’t Know.” The crowd was populated by numerous special guests including Mayor Karl Dean, former Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist and McCullough’s wife, Rosalie.
McCullough, who opened his remarks by commenting on how smitten he was with Nashville, focused his attention on the need for a much stronger emphasis on history in children’s education. He noted that revitalizing history education in the U.S. is part of his life’s mission because it is through the lens of history that Americans can truly find identity. “The history of our country is the most enthralling subject imaginable, but it’s often made tedious and irrelevant… We’re raising children in every part of the country who are by and large historically illiterate.”
Quoting from Dr. Margaret McFarland, the mentor of Fred Rogers, McCullough said, “What matters most in the classroom is attitude, and attitude isn’t taught, it’s caught.” Rather than increased salaries alone, McCullough advocated that educators deserve more respect and should be required to major in a subject, becoming experts in a specific area of knowledge beyond education alone. Still, he also strongly encouraged that education must occur outside classrooms; parents and families must actively engage. “We have to show [our children] what we love.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and New York Times’ best-selling author David McCullough will appear at Belmont University on March 30 as the official conclusion of the year-long campus celebration of the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate. McCullough, the final keynote presenter in Belmont’s 2008-09 “Art of Being Free” lecture series, will speak on “Leadership and the History You Don’t Know” on Mon., March 30 at 7 p.m. in the Curb Event Center. The event is free and open to the public, though tickets are required.
Among his numerous accolades, McCullough was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in December 2006. He also received an honorary degree from his alma mater of Yale that noted, “As an historian, [McCullough] paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breathe, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement and moral character.”
Belmont University Provost Dr. Dan McAlexander said, “David McCullough is a national treasure. A brilliant writer who brings his subjects to full life through vivid narrative and painstaking research, he has expanded our understanding of America’s history in all its rich complexity. We are honored to have him on the Belmont campus and thrilled to be able to share this experience with the Nashville community.”
Born in Pittsburgh, David McCullough received a bachelor’s in English literature from Yale University in 1955, and has since been awarded more than 40 honorary degrees. He has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other widely praised books are 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In addition, McCullough has enjoyed a high television profile, hosting two PBS series: Smithsonian World and The American Experience. He has also narrated many acclaimed documentaries, including Ken Burns’ The Civil War, Brooklyn Bridge and The Statue of Liberty.
Tickets for McCullough’s appearance are available now at the Curb Event Center box office, which is open Monday thru Friday from noon-4 p.m. and on Thursdays from noon-6 p.m. Tickets may also be ordered over the phone by calling 615/460-8500 during box office hours.
Melissa Rogers, founder and director of Wake Forest University’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs, spoke on campus Nov. 5, the day after the historic U.S. election. Rogers examined the major issues of faith and politics that the new president will be dealing with in the next four years.
As Rogers quoted from Barack Obama’s election-night acceptance speech about “uniting America,” the packed Neely Dining Room broke into spontaneous applause. She went on to discuss how Americans staunchly support the separation of church and state, and yet resoundingly want to participate in conversations about faith and politics. In fact, she noted, “In a country where we ask our candidates if they wear boxers or briefs, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’d care about their thoughts on religion.”
Still, Rogers believes that media crossed inappropriate lines in this election when it came to coverage of the candidates’ faith preferences, finding it particularly troubling when specific churches became political targets and media magnets.
As final exit poll data was being analyzed, Rogers observed how President-Elect Obama secured a wide range of voters, claiming strong majorities among minorities, women, young people and first-time voters. “How does Obama manage this diverse coalition that has brought him to office?,” Rogers asked. “These groups of people will have to be brought together.”
Rogers concluded her presentation with a question-and-answer session. When asked about how she would suggest conversations about religion and politics be handled with friends, family and co-workers, she encouraged attendees to respect all faiths. “We are God’s servant, not God’s spokesperson. We need to approach it with that humility.”
The sister of Belmont Vice President for Administration and University Counsel Jason Rogers, Melissa Rogers is the former executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in Washington, D.C. She has appeared on numerous radio and television broadcasts, including “NBC Nightly News,” CNN, Court TV and NPR, and her op-ed pieces have been published by ABC News, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Fort-Worth Star Telegram, Legal Times and Religion News Service. She has written widely about the relationship between religion and public affairs and has testified before the Judiciary Committee to the U.S. Senate on religion’s role in the public square.