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  • 1,100 students hear Rick Santorum debate Howard Dean at Cornell

    10/26/2012 2:08:18 PM Posted by Patrick Coyle

    Santorum and Dean at CornellBy Jessica Reif

    On October 18, 2012, my conservative student group had the honor of hosting a debate between Senator Rick Santorum and Governor Howard Dean at Cornell University as part of Young America's Foundation's Great Debate Series sponsored by the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.  Over 1,100 students and members of the Cornell community crowded in the auditorium to see the debate, and thousands of others watched online or in overflow seating areas on-campus.

    Crowds this large are unusual for any event at Cornell, particularly on public policy. The general attitude on campus is apathetic, and the few students who are involved have already formed concrete opinions and are often uninterested in hearing from the other side.  Most students won't step outside of their comfort zone without an exciting reason to care about key issues and to hear from both sides of the spectrum. That is why this event was so important for the Cornell community. Students who are generally apathetic came to listen to two of the nation's most distinguished leaders. Students who came ready to cheer on Governor Dean found things in Senator Santorum's arguments with which they agreed, and vice versa. This debate made students think about their positions and gain a better understanding of what they actually believe.

    The two biggest accomplishments of this event were getting students talking about public policy. As the crowd filtered out of the auditorium, students discussed the way the debate had unfolded and which positions they agreed with and which they didn't. Students posted on Facebook and Twitter about the arguments they heard. A professor brought up the event in class the following week, calling it a model example of civil discourse between opposite ends of the spectrum.  

    Following the event, my group has taken part in several events. At each one, students raised questions about the Senator Santorum vs. Governor Dean debate and the role of government in a free society. To hear these types of questions makes me confident that the debate made students question the size of government and reconsider its role.

    Jessica Reif is a conservative activist at Cornell University.

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