Media Day preps for debate

Published 1:13 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In less than three weeks, thousands of visitors will descend upon Farmville and Longwood University for the only U.S. vice presidential debate of the year. Among those many thousands of visitors will be members of the media. With that in mind, Longwood administrators and staff — including President W. Taylor Reveley IV — held a Media Day event in Lancaster Hall on Thursday.

David Whitus

David Whitus

Reveley’s chief of staff, Justin Pope, said the process to host the debate at Longwood started nearly two years ago. Pope said the university “threw its name in the hat” with more than 100 other submissions and then made the cut to a final 16. A year ago, he said, the university received the call it had been chosen as the site for the debate.

Pope said the university has been focused on three goals since then: engaging students by incorporating the debate into the syllabi of more than 30 classes and having hundreds of students as part of “an army of volunteers;” making the Longwood name better known throughout the country and the world; and to “leave a legacy” through both a new curriculum and physical makeovers on campus.

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Farmville Mayor David Whitus welcomed visiting media to the nation’s first two-college town.

“There’s a uniqueness in that, in that Longwood is, indeed, a public institution … Hampden-Sydney (College) is a private institution. Hampden-Sydney is all-male and, once upon a time, Longwood was all-female,” Whitus said.

He said the debate is a “wonderful opportunity” for the town and for Longwood as Farmville has a unique place in history from the Civil War to Civil Rights. He also mentioned Farmville’s place as a furniture shopping “mecca,” thanks to Green Front Furniture, as well as the home of the High Bridge Trail.

W. Taylor Reveley IV

W. Taylor Reveley IV

Reveley noted a special guest: Jim Lehrer, former news anchor of PBS’ NewsHour and moderator of 12 presidential debates.

“From this point on … what happens here on that night will be known forever as ‘The Longwood Debate,’” Lehrer said. “Whatever happens — good, bad or indifferent — it will always be labeled as ‘it happened at Longwood,’ which is a terrific thing.

Lehrer said that in every location where he moderated debates, the legacy was that of the community coming together and everyone being involved.

Reveley agreed with Whitus in saying many reasons Longwood was chosen is its history.

“On the north wall of this (meeting) room, we’ve got pictures from around Farmville and the region from the close of the Civil War. The Civil War came to a close, quite literally, along High Street (where) both Lee and Grant’s troops marched,” he said. “Then on the southern wall in this room you have pictures of what was Moton High School and pictures from around town of the student-led strike in 1951 … (which) resulted in Brown v. Board of Education. So, it is fair to say the Civil Rights movement took its first strides in Farmville.”

Jim Lehrer

Jim Lehrer

Reveley also said he felt the Commission on Presidential Debates’ visits to campus helped cement its choice by seeing the energy of the university’s students.

Following the meeting, Reveley said most of the work to prepare for the debate is done.