Our League was approached over the summer with an intriguing idea: why don’t we sponsor a presidential debate viewing party and have a moderated discussion about it afterwards?
Paul Sims of the Mountain View Public Library wanted to co-sponsor this event with us partly, he said, because of the League’s long history of involvement with the presidential debates. Who would come to such an event, we wondered. Would Mountain View residents be interested in discussing the particulars of the debate with strangers, and would we be able to be civil in our discourse? After discussing the pros and cons of this new idea, our board decided to give this a try.
On Tuesday, Oct. 16th, I walked into the Community Room of the MV Library and saw a room full of chairs facing a giant TV screen set to C-Span. And on those chairs, 50 people sat to watch the second presidential debate in community with others. Some were Leaguers who had responded to our e-blast about this event, but most were library patrons who had read the flyers around the library or were people who noted this event in our local newspapers and the Patch news story.
We laughed and groaned and cheered as we jointly witnessed President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney try to make their points. Later we told our moderator, Debbie Mytels of Acterra, that we felt like the same organism as we shared this patriotic event.
Debbie Mytells did an expert job of soliciting truthful viewpoints from us all about how we felt the debate went. She got everyone in the room to contribute their own opinions in a safe way. It was apparent from our comments that we weren’t all from the same political party, and we didn’t have the same opinions about how the debate went or how effectively the campaigns are engaging us. What was important is that we felt like we were participating in our own Town Hall meeting and we were enjoying it.
When it was all over and we were packing up the room Paul Sims and I hugged each other and said that definitely this is something we should call our “First Annual Presidential Debate Viewing Party” because it was such a success that we’ll want to do it again in four years.
We had all the numbers, the enthusiasm, and the good spirits we could have wanted. See you there next time?