Every four years, the presidential debates capture the attention of the nation and the world. Longwood is hoping to earn a moment in the spotlight.
Earlier this spring, the university applied to the Commission on Presidential Debates to serve as a host institution in 2016. It is a competitive process, and Longwood has made a strong proposal, building on its location as a crossroads of history and a swing region in a bellwether electoral state—and its mission of citizen leadership and engagement.
The university also enjoys strong endorsements from Gov.Terry McAuliffe and regional leaders. Longwood was the only institution in Virginia to put forward an application for 2016. The potential benefits of serving as a host institution are unparalleled. For students, it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in one of the most important events in our democracy. Rather than just a one-time occasion, a debate would be the capstone of a full year of learning and extracurricular opportunities built around it.
In addition, hosting a debate would strongly advance the university’s national and international standing. Of the 30 presidential debates held since 1960, 19 have been held at universities.To date, the College of William & Mary (in 1976) and the University of Richmond (in 1992) are the two Virginia institutions to
host a debate, and, in both cases, the debate served as an important catalyst for growing their national reputations.The precise value of the media exposure is difficult to predict, but one estimate of the value to recent host institutions exceeds $50 million.
Over this summer, the commission will carefully review each institutional application, with final decisions expected in the fall of 2015.The debates themselves are scheduled for October 2016.