Tuesday morning I received an urgent text. I had a ticket to the Vice Presidential debate and I had only a few minutes to confirm if I would use it. I hadn’t had any coffee yet, so my first reaction was that it might be a prank. Then I remembered I’d been putting out requests for a ticket to the debate for weeks and I got lucky. My answer was ‘On my way.’
After scrambling to cover work in the office Tuesday morning, I set off for the debate site. The debate was held at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, a three hour drive from Washington, D.C. Longwood is a liberal arts school of 5,000 and one of the nation’s hundred-oldest colleges. The school made a strong push to host this debate, and that passion showed in the excitement of its students who worked on and attended the debate.
I have attended three presidential and vice presidential debates in my career as a campaign staffer, but have always been backstage or in the debate’s “Spin Alley” during those experiences. This was the first time I would be in the debate audience, relaxed and not stressing about my candidate’s talking points, logistics, etc.
After the formalities of the pre-program the vice presidential candidates got to work. One of the first things that struck me was how quiet it was in the debate hall. During the pre-program we were warned repeatedly not to applaud, and would face ejection if we did so. The 90 minutes flew by (though probably not fast enough to many watching at home) and in the end Senator Kaine and Governor Pence both claimed victory. Sure the audience members noticed the interruptions and the liberty taken with some truths, but without watching it on a TV with a split screen it was hard to assess how each candidate really did. Within seconds however, our phones were out and we could see and hear what the media and campaign surrogates were saying about who won and lost.
Following the debate I had an opportunity to attend an event with Senator Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton. Breaking through the crowd I introduced myself to Ms. Holton, telling her I worked for both AIM and the Alzheimer’s Association, and she immediately thanked me for the work we do.
The next presidential debate should be as exciting as the first debate and AIM is working hard to get an Alzheimer's question asked. If you haven’t already done so, please vote for the question from AIM member Karen S. from California. We're going to keep this issue front and center through November 8!
John Funderburk is the Finance Director of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement.