After Hosting Presidential Debate, Belmont Reflects Back on a Semester Full of Educational Opportunities

Ideas of America

As the debate programming comes to an end, Belmont University thanks students, faculty and staff for being supportive in the University’s preparation for the Presidential Debate and their participation in the virtual, educational events throughout the fall season. 

As soon as Belmont was announced as the host site, the University worked swiftly to create a semester full of debate-related programming under the umbrella topic of “The Ideas of America,” which featured a slate of events, speakers and discussions, many of which are still available at Belmontdebate2020.com and on Belmont’s YouTube channel.

With a goal to explore many of the ideas at the heart of the American story: our history, democracy, the vote, the rights and responsibilities of citizens and more, the “Ideas of America” programming provided students and community members with unique events where they were able to engage with professionals in various fields and professions as they all discussed the debate and topics surrounding it, keeping civility and civic responsiblity at the center. Ultimately, Belmont’s goal was to create events and programs that celebrate the American spirit and recognize what makes this great nation so unique.

Events included the University’s annual Humanities Symposium and White House Style, a four part series with creative consultant and host Libby Callaway that featured a national slate of historians, designers and cultural critics. Other events brought in experts to share their thoughts and knowledge on topics such as social media, misinformation, Christianity and politics, and voting. The University also partnered with other local colleges and Rock the Vote for a concert celebrating National Voter Registration Day.

The University offered various courses related to the Presidential debate, as well, such as a class taught by Instructor Jennifer Duck and Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel called “Democracy, Media and the Public Sphere,” which was featured on C-SPAN’s “Lectures in History.”

Student Danielle Mcgahan shared, “Students have been given unique opportunities to enroll in classes that examine our democracy and teach us how to be responsible citizen and consumers of media.” 

Lucy Walsh, a student in the Public Relations course, Debate in Action, taught by Dr. Sharee Broussard, shared, “I’ve gotten to take a deep dive into what it takes for a university to facilitate an event on this scale, and I’ve particularly focused on the support and collaboration needed from the greater Nashville community.” 

Two special initiatives are still ongoing and are available to the public. The Unity Flag project is on display until November 20 in the Lobby of Leu Center for the Visual Arts and in a special online gallery. Another exhibit is also up until November 20 in the Leu Gallery in the Lila D. Bunch Library, entitled Designing a Democracy: from the political poster collection of Ronnie Steine.

Belmont thanks not only the faculty of Belmont but alumni, sponsors and partners beyond the Belmont community for sharing their knowledge to contribute to the betterment of students’ civil discourse education.  

Overall, the presidential debate provided not only the Belmont community but the Nashville community with a unique opportunity and signifcant impact. As the activities and excitement around the presidential debate come to a close, the University hopes that students use the education acquired from debate programming to continue the conversation and foster civic engagement often on campus and beyond.