Hofstra Holds Mock Slave Auction Ahead of Tonight’s Debate

October 15, 2008 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

hofstra-logo.jpgLast-minute preparations are underway at Hofstra for Wednesday night’s presidential debate. With the attention of the world on the Long Island campus, it’s no surprise the debate is all students are talking about.


“Last night we had a good 50 students who came out until midnight making signs, showing their support for Senator Obama,” said Robb Friedlander, co-founder of Hofstra for Barack Obama.

Whether you support Obama or McCain, the host of Wednesday night’s debate is the place to be.

“We’re going to be holding signs. We want him to get a lot of air time. Show he does in fact have support in New York,” said Breck Robinson, a McCain supporter from Indiana.

CBS 2 HD visited the campus Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. It is pulling out all the stops for its page in the history books.

Hofstra political science student Tyler Greenpope was breathless. He had just learned his good fortune: he was selected to usher dignitaries into the presidential debate, and then watch it all live, up close and personal.

“I almost jumped up and down screaming and cheering, but I had to be a little bit professional,” Greenpope said.

The entire campus is buzzing. Historical re-enactments were held 24 hours before Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama take the stage. There was Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, a mock-slavery auction, women’s rights activists and civil rights speakers — all intended to “engage debate.”

In order to help her students appreciate the historic significance of the debate, Professor Lisa Merrill is holding a mock-debate and press conference with important figures from America’s past.

“This isn’t a play script written for them. The Hofstra students and the others that are visiting are all speaking the words of these historical characters,” said Merrill.

And the words students say they want to hear most from both candidates, isn’t about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, they want both McCain and Obama to explain what they plan to do about the world’s current economic problems.

“It’s actually college loans, how they can get some relief so that they aren’t in debt until they’re 40 or 45,” said student Steve Pelligrino.

“It is amazing. I mean there are going to be 3,100 journalists here, live telecast back to Ireland, Japan, Singapore,” Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said.

One of the reasons Hofstra was selected as host was its courses on politics of presidential elections. And the university is investing $3.5 million for this unprecedented honor.

Expenses include 500,000 feet wire, 50,000 square feet of carpet, 1,500 tables and 1,400 phone lines.

“I can’t believe the two candidates – one of them will be our president in a few months – and they’ll be standing right here tomorrow,” student volunteer Shanna Brownlee said.

The Hempstead community is hoping for an economic bounce.

Restaurants, hotels and delis report brisk business. Local groups here are using the debate’s national spotlight to gather attention to their causes, like children and families and peaceful alternatives. 

Police are cautioning drivers about possible heavy traffic and road closures on Long Island due to the presidential debate being hosted at Hofstra University.

Nassau County police say all traffic lanes on Hempstead Turnpike will be open to passenger vehicles, except between Oak Street and Merrick Avenue from 10 a.m. Wednesday to 1 a.m. Thursday.

They say that motorists should expect delays because of intermittent traffic diversions near the university’s main entrance and Nassau Coliseum.

Earl Ovington Boulevard will also be closed between Hempstead Turnpike and Charles Lindberg Boulevard from 10 a.m. Wednesday to 1 a.m. Thursday.

With the economic crisis fueling public unease, Obama has built leads nationally and in key states as the turmoil has returned the nation’s focus to the policies of the unpopular President Bush. The burden now is on McCain to try to reverse his slide.

To that end, the Arizona senator took a new approach this week, positioning himself as a fighter for the American middle class and easing off his most direct attacks on Obama, an Illinois senator. McCain also took pains to separate himself from Bush.

“We cannot spend the next four years as we have spent much of the last eight: waiting for our luck to change. … As president I intend to act, quickly and decisively,” McCain said Tuesday in battleground Pennsylvania.

He announced a $52.5 billion economic plan Tuesday that calls for halving the tax rate on capital gains and reducing the tax on withdrawals from retirement accounts, among other measures. A day earlier, Obama unveiled a $60 billion proposal that includes an extension of unemployment benefits, a 90-day freeze on home foreclosures, penalty-free withdrawals from retirement funds and a $3,000 tax credit for each new job.

Both candidates call for doing away with the tax on unemployment benefits.

McCain has suggested that he is likely to bring up Obama’s links to William Ayers, a radical during the Vietnam War era. Ayers was a member of the violent Weather Underground group but later became a university professor in Chicago and an expert on education. He and Obama both worked with some of the same charity foundations in Chicago, and Ayers hosted a reception for Obama when he first ran for the Illinois state Senate.

“We’re always prepared for him to be hyperaggressive in his attacks,” Obama campaign aide Robert Gibbs said of McCain. “I just think that doesn’t work in an environment where so many people are concerned about the issues in front of them, not scare tactics they don’t see as helping to pay the bills.”

He said Obama will try to project an aura of calm leadership during the debate, which Gibbs said he achieved in two previous debates with McCain.

Obama’s campaign also has taken some shots at McCain, increasingly labeling him “erratic” and “lurching” for solutions to the economic crisis. The words suggest unsteadiness by the four-term senator, who is 72.

Polls conducted after the earlier debates found that more people thought Obama had won both.

Meanwhile, McCain has had trouble finding support among swing voters. A recent Associated Press-GfK Poll showed independents about evenly divided between the two candidates, which is problematic for McCain because registered Democrats decisively outnumber registered Republicans this year.

On Wednesday afternoon the Secret Service will tell Hofstra just how many of the 250 students already cleared by security, will earn a coveted seat by lottery.

And the Secret Service is putting frozen zones in the area around the campus Wednesday:

No commercial traffic will be allowed on Hempstead Turnpike between Oak Street and Merrick Avenue. Earl Ovington Boulevard will be closed to all traffic between Hempstead Turnpike and Charles Lindbergh Boulevard.

Source: WCBSTV

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