Why host the debate on a college campus?
As I watch Washington University prepare for the vice presidential debate tonight, one question keeps haunting me: Why host the debate on a college campus?
After all, college students vote in notoriously low numbers. We also blindly worship young celebrity candidates rather than carefully examining the issues, and we spend all of our time watching “Grey’s Anatomy” in our unwashed pajamas and eating cereal.
This stereotype, however, is false. Not only do we sometimes watch “Lost” instead of “Grey’s,” but we also have been watching the election coverage. We have even been talking about the issues and registering to vote.
Furthermore, the Commission on Presidential Debates chose Wash. U. despite our alleged apathy. I am fairly certain it was not for our picturesque collegiate Gothic architecture, but rather as a reminder that this election is about the future. More than anything, this debate is about we college students and about the kind of world we will soon inherit.
Right now, that world is looking pretty bleak. The economy is rapidly collapsing; the environment is deteriorating; the inequality gap is widening and America’s standing in the world is substantially weaker than it was eight years ago.
For the first time in American history, a generation of young adults may face a lower standard of living than the generation before them.
Tonight our vice presidential candidates need to explain how they and their running mates will reverse these trends.
We need a candidate who offers a plan for successfully withdrawing from Iraq. We cannot afford to spend the next 100 years maintaining Iraqi stability, especially at a time when America so desperately needs to be investing more money at home.
We need increased regulation and oversight for the companies receiving government handouts as part of our attempt to save our collapsing financial system. For the past eight years, our government regulators have operated with a deep contempt for regulation. The result has been disastrous.
We need an energy policy that forces us to kick our addiction to oil completely. Gimmicks like gas tax holidays and offshore drilling offer a little short-term relief, but do nothing to encourage the investment in alternative energy that we need to carry us into the future.
We need to restore our focus on the war in Afghanistan, the real home of Al-Qaeda, and prevent the conflict from spillover into Pakistan where instability could place nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. We need a candidate who will address the growing threat of a nuclear Iran.
Finally, we need a candidate who will reform our health care system, improve the quality of our public education and repair our infrastructure. Making these critical investments is the only way to preserve America’s economic competitiveness for the 21st century and protect my generation’s economic prospects.
These are issues that deserve real, substantive debate. Cheap sound bites and trivial distractions are not enough to capture the magnitude of the problems we now face.
Temporary solutions like offshore drilling are not enough. Running on wedge issues like abortion or gun control is not enough. Empty attack ads are not enough.
My generation deserves more than an overstretched military, a rising debt to China and a devastated planet. Instead, help us inherit a future free from nuclear proliferation and dependence on foreign oil. Help us find better job opportunities when we graduate and help us now as we struggle to pay rising college tuition costs.
This election is too important to be skewed by sensationalistic journalists or candidates who attempt to compensate for weak platforms with shameless personal attacks.
Maybe that’s why Wash. U. students have been registering to vote in record numbers this fall: It seems that we have woken up from our television-induced comas long enough to notice that our future is at risk.
So please don’t reduce this election to a mere personality contest. Give us a real debate, one that moves this country forward into the future and promises us the opportunities for progress afforded to each American generation before us. We deserve no less.