Washington University in St. Louis selected to host the 2008 vice presidential debate

Washington University in St. Louis will host the 2008 vice presidential debate, scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT on Oct. 2, 2008, according to an announcement made by Paul G. Kirk Jr. and Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., co-chairmen of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

The debate will focus on both domestic and foreign policy and will be administered by a single moderator.

This is the fifth consecutive time the university has been selected by the CPD to host a debate. Washington University is the only institution to host more than two debates.

Washington University in St. Louis announces that it will host the only Vice Presidential debate on October 2, 2008.

In 1992, the university hosted the first three-candidate presidential debate in CPD history, was selected to host a presidential debate in 1996 that eventually was canceled, hosted the third and last presidential debate of the 2000 campaign season and the second of three presidential debates before the 2004 election.

“We are delighted to have been selected for an unprecedented fifth time to be a host site for one of the debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates,” Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “It is a privilege to once again play an important role in the American electoral process and to be chosen from among 19 applicants to be one of the hosts and the site of the only vice presidential debate for the 2008 election.”

The university is again offering the same facilities that were made available for the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 debates, which include the Field House, Francis Gymnasium and other areas of the Athletic Complex. Francis Gym and Francis Field were the sites of the 1904 World Olympic Games, the first Olympics played in the Western Hemisphere.

All tickets to attend the Washington University debate are assigned by the CPD. As was done in 1992, 2000 and 2004, any debate tickets that may be assigned to Washington University will be distributed only to students, who will be selected in a university-wide lottery, Wrighton said.

“These one-of-a-kind events are great experiences for our students, they contribute to a national understanding of important issues, and they allow us to help bring national and international attention to the St. Louis region as one of America’s great metropolitan areas,” Wrighton said.

Debate organizers announced that the three presidential debates will be held at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., on Sept. 26, 2008, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 7, 2008, and Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Oct. 15, 2008. There is only one vice presidential debate.

The CPD, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in 1987, is responsible for selecting the venues and producing the presidential debates.

The Washington University Field House, located in the university’s Athletic Complex, was the site of the first nationally televised three-candidate presidential debate in 1992, featuring President George Bush, Gov. Bill Clinton and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot. That year, the university had just seven days to transform the hardwood-floor gymnasium of the Field House into a red-carpeted debate hall.

Presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry speak to town hall participants during the Oct. 8, 2004 debate.
Presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry speak to town hall participants during the Oct. 8, 2004 debate.

In 2000, the university hosted a “town-hall meeting” debate between Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, during which candidates took questions from an audience of 140 undecided St. Louis-area voters selected by the Gallup organization.

The town-hall format again was used when President George W. Bush squared off against Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 debate at Washington University. ABC News’ Charles Gibson served as moderator.

Sitting on stools surrounded by the 140 town-hall participants — who were undecided St. Louis-area voters selected by the Gallup organization — Bush and Kerry discussed topics such as the war in Iraq, jobs, health care and abortion.

Besides the town-hall participants, an estimated 900 people — including media, dignitaries, invited guests and more than 200 Washington University students — viewed the 90-minute debate from the Field House. Millions more worldwide watched on television.

In her introduction of the 2004 debate, CPD executive director Janet Brown praised Washington University as being the “gold standard” for debate sites.

According to the CPD, worldwide television viewership of the vice presidential debate is comparable to the presidential debates, with the exception of the first presidential debate, which always commands the highest viewing numbers.

Washington University is counted among the world’s leaders in teaching and research, and it draws students and faculty to St. Louis from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and more than 120 international locations. Approximately 13,500 undergraduate, graduate and professional students enroll each year.

The university’s 3,098 faculty teach in seven schools: Arts & Sciences, Olin Business School, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, School of Engineering, School of Law, School of Medicine and George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

Twenty-two Nobel laureates have been associated with Washington University, with nine doing the major portion of their pioneering research here.

The university offers more than 90 programs and almost 1,500 courses leading to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in a broad spectrum of traditional and interdisciplinary fields, with additional opportunities for minor concentrations and individualized programs.