On Wednesday, January 10th, Drake University hosted the final GOP Presidential debate ahead of the caucuses. The debate, hosted by CNN, was held in the Sheslow Auditorium in Old Main. I was fortunate enough to be one of the students who received a ticket and participated in this incredible opportunity.
Walking into Sheslow, my breath was taken away. In all of its three-dimensional glory, the CNN stage was the center of attention. With twinkling lights and immersive red, white, and blue screens, the stage setup looked like something that would never belong in Iowa. The entire auditorium felt completely unreal. They completely transformed the space, leaving only a few of the old wooden seats.
The pre-show of the Debate took me aback the most. While I knew there were steps to making it televised, it never quite clicked on how it would be broadcast live to the whole country. Leading up to being on air, the floor director, who was in charge of the audience, spent a good amount of time doing housekeeping. He went over the process, when to clap when the cameras were rolling, and emphasized the biggest rule of the debate- respecting the candidates. He brought respect up multiple times, emphasizing that while the audience can be enthusiastic, the American people want to hear the candidates, not the crowd.
Being a part of this memorable night was an amazing experience. As someone from Iowa who has lived their entire life seeing the Iowa Caucuses, it is easy to overlook how important these nationally broadcasted debates are for the average American who wants to be politically engaged. They allow the rest of the country to feel what Iowans get throughout the entire caucus season. This experience made me realize how blessed I am to be a part of this process that people care about and can change lives.