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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Pondering politics: numerous questions raised at Bush debate

By Shannon Merillat
Contributing Writer


Friday, March 19, 2004

Amid the recent controversy surrounding St. Olafs political diversity, the Political Awareness Committee (PAC)-sponsored Bush debate Tuesday could not have been more timely.

The four students who debated in defense of Bush were Nick Norman 06, Philip Rossing 07, Megan Blair 05, and Nicholas Grey 04. The opposing side included Matt Scherer 06, Brandon Turner 04, Paul Tveite 07 and Niels Knutson 04.

Derek Pierce 06, the coordinator of the event said that the idea of a Bush debate was first proposed in the fall of this year by Emily Dahl 06.

The debate began with introductions from both sides concerning what each group aimed to accomplish through the debate. Both sides sought to increase political awareness and to encourage people to actively seek out information about political issues. The students spoke about he nations economy, health care and national security issues under the Bush administration.

Both sides were then given an opportunity to fire questions at their opponents. The debate closed with a half hour session in which debaters an-swered questions posed by the audience.

Questions were directed specifically toward either the anti-Bush group or the pro-Bush group. Some of the questions addressed why the President chose to become involved in Iraq instead of elsewhere, how to define the war on terror, and if it is acceptable for Bush to use Biblical references, even though the U.S. was founded on secular principles.

There were significantly more questions posed to the pro-Bush speakers. Jake Fitzpatrick 07 thought that this might reflect the abundance of political liberal students on campus. One students inquiry did address both sides, asking the pro-Bush side which of President Bushs actions they found negative, and asking the anti-Bush side which of the Presidents actions have had a positive effect on the nation. Both sides readily offered responses.

"I am very pleased with the high turnout," Pierce said. "I think both sides did a good job."

Other students in attendance agreed.

"Both sides were courteous to each other, which we need more on this campus," John Hensel 05 said. "It was a good way to forward debate."

Sharon Sanders 07 and Basil Vernon 07 thought that the anti-Bush group maintained a better argument, but that they also seemed more nervous during their presentation.

"The pro-Bush people seemed a lot more relaxed, I believe, because their arguments were based on personal beliefs, not facts," Sanders said. "The anti-Bush people presented a lot of facts to back their opinions. They were more nervous because they simply had to remember so much."

Laura Barnard 07 said that she thought the debates reflected a great deal of work for both sides.

"I dont know how much anyone was really convinced one way or the other, since both sides did such extensive research," Barnard said. "It was a really positive experience."

Pierce said that St. Olaf students can look forward to a debate between Kerry and Bush supporters this fall before the November presidential elections.

Sanders believes this Kerry/Bush debate could increase voter turnout.

"I am all about people getting out there to vote," she said.





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