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.

October 12, 2020


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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