An eerie calm has washed over the campus … It’s all over and we did it – and did it well! The day we prepared more than a year for has come and gone, but the memories linger on. Our university is like that famous children’s book, The Little Engine that Could. Our tiny “unknown” school landed a huge coup – the third and final presidential debate –and was thrust into the national spotlight and onto the world stage. (And by the way, we never heard of you either – as some of our t-shirts said.)
So, everyone is asking me, how was it? Well, it was pretty amazing – so much activity, so much media, so much of everything. It was non-stop for 4 days. I worked pretty crazy hours since Friday, but it all went really well. I wasn’t stationed where all the real action was – like in the debate hall or media filing center (you’ll have to get my other Knight Writers’ point of view on that one as they were in the center of the storm), but there was plenty of excitement “outside the fence,” as we were called. There were live broadcasts on campus (Face the Nation, Hardball), our Social Media Lounge was buzzing with action, there were lots of events and activity, including our Red, White & Pool Party which an Inside Edition reporter I escorted to it thought was particularly “cool ” – only in South Florida in October. I saw the 10-second clip the next night – and blinked and almost missed it.
Though the big story was in the debate hall and the media filing center, there were so many “little” stories that I’m sure can and will be shared over the next few weeks – and beyond.
When we were in the planning stages of this massive event – an event that we hoped would help us get the exposure we needed to “tell our story,” as well as give the students an awareness of the political process and a real sense of their civic responsibility, many were skeptical that students would use the extended weekend (no class day of debate) to get out of town and that they wouldn’t care enough about the debate and all that was attached to it. But I have to say that I was so impressed with the students’ enthusiasm, involvement and participation: More than 750 students came en masse to see if they won a coveted ticket during the ticket lottery drawing; they came out in force for all the events of the weekend; they volunteered all hours and shifts; they literally squealed with delight at the opportunity to be in the debate hall.
I was equally impressed with the enthusiasm of the volunteers, whether they were students, staff or outside community members, they came to help and be part of it with big smiles on their faces. As a team leader of media assistants, I was so pleasantly surprised at the turnout and the can-do attitude. Some had to man (or woman) a media check-in point for hours. At one point, I went to pull some of my volunteers off their shift and even though there wasn’t much activity there, they said they were having such a good time getting to know each other, they begged me to stay. And this was a student and an older PR veteran from the outside community. They had never met and somehow bonded strongly over the experience. I felt the same way about so many wonderful students and community members I met that I would otherwise never have gotten to know.
And politically, I was impressed with the enthusiasm the students exhibited for their candidates. They were totally engaged, holding up signs and cheering as they became the backdrop for the live broadcast shows. And during the Red, White & View party, cheers and applause rang out as the candidates made their points. The atmosphere felt less like a TV viewing, more like a rock concert.
We dubbed the inside-the-fence area Debate City and it was just that. Though I only got a quick glimpse inside the media filing center, the feeling was electric. The sheer number of people on our campus was amazing and the excitement in the air was palpable – and not only that, the weather was picture perfect! (Thank goodness, Sandy decided to make an appearance now instead of then.)
It’s been a long year and a very intense experience and in the midst of such a massive undertaking, with stress levels high and tempers short, you get to witness human nature at its worst and its best. There was a little of both going on and everything in between, but I think when you all was said and done, everyone rose to the challenge. Lynn called on its “troops” and they all reported for duty with bells on. Were there some glitches and missteps here and there along the way? Probably, but as far as I can tell, Lynn University shone very bright during our amazing moment in the sun.