The first Presidential debate I can recall was the Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960. It was the first televised presidential debate in history. I was in college, not yet 21, the then-voting age, but I do remember that it was a college event in a time of only black and white television and small screen TVs.
We now have the spectacle of the 2020 Presidential ‘debates’. The first one was held, sort of; the second was cancelled, there is supposed to be a third, and there was one vice-presidential debate. It has been a very odd year.
Tonight was to be a town-hall format involving both candidates. For reasons all readers now know, tonight one network carried Biden; another carried Trump. There was no debate.
Here’s what the Commission on Presidential Debates has to say about debates.
I may add more to this post later, commenting on a fascinating series of debates from the year 1927, which I learned about in 2001, involving three young Englishmen, debating at 31 American colleges and universities in the fall of 1927.
A look back to the ‘good old days’.
In 2001, in the wake of 9-11-01, I had the unexpected honor of meeting Alan King-Hamilton in person, in London. There is a story, not relevant to this piece, about how I came to meet him, and later to be honored with a copy of his notes taken during a 1927 debate tour with two Cambridge University colleagues of 31 U.S. colleges and universities in the midwest and western U.S.
Later, I augmented his notes with contemporary college and other newspaper accounts of the actual debates. The entire collection is worth a book, which I hope someone will write – perhaps in connection with the centennial of the trip coming up in a few years.
Where the debates occurred can be seen here: King-Hamilton et al 1927001. A 1927 photo including King-Hamilton, and his colleagues Elvin and Foot, is here: Alan King Hamilton 1927001.
Debate has a very long and honorable history, especially for making and interpretation of Law, which is the essence of government. It is disappearing.
Alan King-Hamilton, 1927
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