Dartmouth caught up in debate excitement

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(Host) Dartmouth College was the center of nationwide attention last night when eight Democratic presidential candidates met to debate.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, many on the Ivy League campus were caught up in the excitement of the event — and the chance to see the candidates up close.

(Zind) Normally the Dartmouth College Green is a quiet spot in the swirl of campus activity, but Wednesday night it was the center of the pre-debate frenzy.

(Zind) Candidate’s supporters waved placards and broke into chants at the approach of a microphone or camera.

Nearby, a fleet of satellite trucks hummed as media pundits held forth.

(Matthews) “Welcome back to Hardball. Less than 90 minutes away from tonight’s democratic debate here in New Hampshire…”

(Zind) Down the street a long line of students wound toward a watch party in a campus arena.

(Debate worker) “If you checked in with an ID, go to the right, if you have a ticket, as you go through the doors go straight. Thank you.”

(Zind) Andy Lesser, a senior from Rochester, New York says it’s important to her to get together with hundreds of other students to watch the debate.

(Lesser) “Because it’s on our campus, so we’re really proud to have it here and I think that we really want to celebrate it as a crowd and enjoy it as a crowd and hear who boos and who cheers at what moment.”

(Zind) Among the succession of pre-debate speakers who addressed the crowd gathered at Spaulding Auditorium was former Vermont Governor Howard Dean – now the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dean said increasing participation by young voters is an encouraging sign.

(Dean) “There is a new generation moving forward in this country. As John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address in 1961, this is the time for passing the torch to a new generation.”

(Zind) That call for young people to be involved was repeated after the debate as a steady procession of candidates appeared before the students gathered in Dartmouth’s arena. The first to arrive was Barak Obama.

(Obama) “These changes will not happen unless we galvanize and mobilize an entire new generation of Americans…”

(Zind) Each candidate, regardless of standing in the polls, received an energetic welcome from the students. As the candidates passed from the room, students reached to shake their hands and took their photographs with cameras and cell phones.

Adam Breuer, a junior from Oberlin, Ohio, says he hasn’t decided who he’ll vote for, but the debate did change is mind about one of the candidates.

(Breuer) “I didn’t expect I would like Hillary Clinton, but I though she was really good. So, it made me think.”

(Zind) At this point no Republican debate is scheduled – that’s something Dartmouth is hoping to arrange. For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind in Hanover.

(Host) The entire Democratic debate will be available online at VPR.net.


AP Photo/Bill Sikes

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