Two Nebraska Wesleyan University students will be watching the presidential debates ever so closely.
Not only because they feel college students should be civically engaged, but the questions asked of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will likely have some familiarity.
Senior Kaycee Greenfield and sophomore Jared McGinn were selected as Nebraska’s delegates to College Debate 2016, a first-of-its kind national initiative created by Dominican University of California, to provide college students from across the country a platform for discussing and debating issues facing our country.
In June delegates representing all 50 states traveled to Dominican University for a week of speakers, issue rooms and idea swapping on how to engage peers in the political process at their home campuses. The delegates returned to California in September for a town hall where they had the opportunity to develop questions that would be shared with moderators of the fall presidential debates.
Five questions were shared with moderators on income inequality and economy, foreign policy, social justice, immigration, and education.
McGinn helped develop the foreign policy question, which addresses each candidate’s plans to support Syrian civilians without creating further conflict with other political actors.
“I’ll be really interested to see how they will answer that,” said McGinn, a sophomore, political science major from Norfolk. “We tried to make our questions as direct as possible that way they can’t give a political answer and dance around it.”
Greenfield, a senior, social work major from Norfolk, identified social justice and civil rights as a platform of interest, focusing on the tenants of equality.
“America is founded on the idea of opportunity but a lot people begin their lives with less opportunity,” she said.
While their attention is on the presidential debates, the duo is also focused on getting NWU students involved in the election.
“We really want to hit voter registration and get as many people on campus involved,” said McGinn.
Together they’re working on projects with the Political Affairs Club and Student Affairs Senate including the continued implementation of Turbo Vote, an application that makes voter registration easy and available to college students.
Greenfield and McGinn are also implementing tactics they learned at College Debate 2016, reaching out to their peers via social media with clever hashtags and promoting informative internet applications.
McGinn said his experience at College Debate 2016 helped him to further realize the importance of bipartisanship.
“With how politics is right now, it’s extremely divided and becoming almost hostile,” he said. “It (College Debate 2016) really opened my mind to a lot of different things I hadn’t thought about. There were a lot of different perspectives.”
“Embracing that difference is okay and we need both sides to create healthy discussions,” Greenfield added.
Their biggest lesson learned and one they’re teaching their peers is the impact young voters can have on this presidential election.
“Most social reform that has happened has been because young people do something about it and we have a huge power to be able to do something about it,” said McGinn.
“Becoming more civically engaged should be important to everyone, not only political science majors and minors,” Greenfield added. “Our elected officials are our voice. If you are not taking part in who is choosing to represent you, then ultimately you are not taking part in how this country will play out within the next several years.”
By Emmalie Harris, public relations intern