The Presidential Debate
The Henny Pennys of this world are certain at each crisis that our sky is falling. Our
problems are unsolvable. The apocalypse is at hand. Yet the human record unfolds. We
live to fight our woes on other fields on other days. The impossible becomes possible. The
imagined becomes real. The hoped for becomes actual. Today you enter that ultimately
serious race, the human race. It is yours now not to study, but to run. As you run, do
not stop for lunch in a fox’s den or heed those doomsayers whose message is that the race
is over and lost. Prophets of such feather might turn out to be no more than a bunch
of chickens!
Thomas K. Hearn Jr., May 15, 1989;
Charge to the Graduates, Wake Forest University Commencement
ake Forest gained new prestige in the fall of 1988 with its staging of a presi-
dential in Wait Chapel on September 25. As previously mentioned,
the event was initially proposed by three members of the class of
1989, Michael Smith, Beth Dawson, and Scott Dubois, who all belonged to the Young
Republicans, but the effort was apolitical. It was also the first presidential debate pro-
duced by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates; the next
would take place in Pauley Pavilion at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
on October 13. Governor James Martin called the Wake Forest debate “the largest
media and public affairs event in North Carolina’s history.” Before an international
television audience of sixty-five million viewers, candidates George H.W. Bush and
Michael Dukakis focused on foreign and domestic policy.
When Wake Forest applied to host the debate, President Hearn called a meeting
of Winston-Salem business leaders at Graylyn to raise the $2 million necessary to
produce it. Support from corporate sponsors was enthusiastic. USAir Group, Inc.;
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