Voters fatigued from menacing political ads, anxious to see the 2012 election season make its descent into history, have a few more days to endure the political hijacking of their television screens. They’ve reached maximum density in tolerating the incessant punditry, pontifications, polls, and unpleasantries.
What I hear many voters say as I moderate community conversations across the state is that they hunger for civility and substance in political discourse. An example of that high-level, interactive conversation happened last week just hours before the vice presidential debate at Centre College, a few campus buildings away from where Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan went toe to toe.
The Global Center for Connected Campuses (GC3) — in partnership with Centre College, Connected Nation and 10/20 Digital — hosted more than 3,000 students from 48 states and 14 countries in a live town hall discussion. While the final participation tally in the digital town hall could equal more, those preliminary numbers demonstrate the eagerness of young people to find ways to engage in the political process even if they aren’t old enough to punch a voting ballot.
The questions posed via Twitter and video messaging were as sophisticated as the bright panelists who answered them. From social media, to foreign policy, to higher education and the environment, representatives from the Centre College Democrats and Republicans fielded questions from their younger peers.
As moderator, I was pleased that Kentucky’s top election officers of the past and present joined the conversation to weight the discussion with their experiences as elected officials. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes spent the first hour of the two-hour event on stage, followed by her predecessor Trey Grayson, who now heads Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Grayson chimed in using Skype.
The technical ingenuity of the event was impressive, and so was the conversation. The purpose of the project was to showcase educational technology, share the debate experience with students, and give teachers a framework for teaching civic engagement and election topics in the classroom. It succeeded on all those levels, all while an in-theatre audience of youngsters looked on and offered some questions of their own. It was my honor to moderate the discussion that you can see here. Or, visit the event website.