BOCA RATON, Fla. — The presidential candidates aside, if there’s one winner of Monday’s debate, it may be Lynn University, the small private liberal arts university here that is playing host to the main event.
Some of the 2000-plus student body’s more politically active (and not-so) members were out in force Monday to take in the spectacle that comes with hosting the third and final presidential debate.
“It means the world” said Mark Spiro, President of Lynn’s College Republicans, “We’ve known about this for more than a year; we get to welcome the world’s media and now little old Lynn is known worldwide.”
Secret Service and nearly 2,500 members of the national have overtaken the 123-acre campus. Some organizations set up shop just outside the security perimeter near the Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center — the debate venue — for “The Causeway — Red, White and Point of View.”
Chandra Lugo and Philtrinn Farquharson, both university freshman from Florida, were manning the Lynn College Democrats table. “Words can’t even describe it,” said Farquharson. “We get to represent not just College Democrats, but Lynn University, it’s astounding! It’s made us more aware, more patriotic.”
The university has used the debate as a teachable moment for students, folding the event into their classwork with class discussions, in-class debates and presentations on debate topics.
“They’ve integrated it into the curriculum and our classes, but it’s not just about the politics. ‘Tension City’ was part of our summer reading,” said Lugo, referring to the book on the presidential debates by the NewsHour’s own Jim Lehrer. “Reading it was interesting, but then watching the debates, it makes me understand it a lot more, the political messaging and some of the subtlety.”
More than 100 Lynn University students scored big when they were chosen Sunday for seats inside the debate. Among them is Jocelyn Grayson, a freshman. Her father, DJ Grayson Sr. traveled to Boca Raton from the family’s home in Clovis, N.M., for the occasion and spoke while his daughter was in the dorms getting ready for the big event.
“Lynn has done a great job making sure the kids are involved with this whole event, the faculty have been really engaged,” he said. “It feels like it’s worth the money.”
Meanwhile, back with the Lynn College Republicans, Gordon Maxwell said the attention that comes with the debate has had an invaluable impact on the student body.
“A lot of people who may not have been involved are starting to get hyped. In classes tomorrow we’re going to be talking about the debate in class discussions,” he said.
Bill Sadler, Vice-Chairman of the Palm Beach County Libertarian Party was out, saying just because his candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, wasn’t invited on the podium for any of the debates, that didn’t mean this wasn’t an opportunity.
“We didn’t want to do a protest, but we want to make sure the kids know there’s an option,” said Sadler. “We want to expose Libertarian thinking to the college students. Some of them are a little unaware, but they’re always anxious to learn.”
Lynn University boasts students from more than 80 countries, so the debate’s focus on foreign policy was not lost on the member’s of Lynn’s Saudi Student Organization. None of the three members manning the table are eligible to vote, but looked forward to the occasion nonetheless. “It brings a lot of excitement. We don’t have anything like this back home,” said Mohamed Khomas.
Daniel Williams, a freshman focused on International Business said he has a particular interest in the topic: “For what I study, the economy and taxes are very involved in foreign policy, and I think that will come up tonight. President Obama might be stronger on foreign policy, but if it comes to the economy and foreign policy, I think Gov. Romney will have a strong answer for that.”
Still, it wasn’t all serious business, with classes cancelled for today’s event. Around midday, students gathered nearby for a “Red, White and Pool Party” pre-debate festival, beating the heat with American flag-festooned floats on this balmy late-October day.
“Hey, it’s Florida!” said one party-goer, who declined to be named, but assured he’d be watching the debate later. A viewing party will be held for students on the university’s soccer field during the debate.