Trust, but Verify

Insider Debate Photos

by A.J. Mercincavage | December 5, 2012

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. My senior seminar project is bearing down on me along with five other finals, and on top of that my car broke down over the weekend. Nothing is ever easy, right?

But you’ve got to stay positive. In just over a week, I’ll be finished with my undergraduate degree and moving forward to prep for graduate school.

To show more of the semester past, here are some photos courtesy of Lynn’s own Sophia Barrett, who was an usher during the Presidential Debate:

Yes, that blurry figure in the bottom of the gallery is Candy Crowley, moderator of the 2nd Presidential Debate!

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Sneak Peek of Lincoln

by A.J. Mercincavage | November 17, 2012

Students got front row tickets to history once again, this time with an early screening of Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” thanks to Professor of American Studies, Dr. Watson.

“Lincoln” stars Academy Award Winner Daniel Day Lewis in the titular role of the 16th American President. The film follows Lincoln as he worked with his cabinet members to end slavery and preserve the union during the Civil War.

Roger Ebert, the renowned movie critic and contributor to the Chicago-Sun Times, gave the film high marks with a four star rating. Student reviews after the screening were equally positive.

“The movie was really good. It really portrayed [Lincoln’s] soft speech well,” said JJ Dawson, President of Lynn’s College Democrats. “He wasn’t a guy that was very aggressive in tone. It was directed well and it was very accurate.”

The film is based loosely off of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”, a book I’ve been chipping away at over the last few months. While the film focuses on Lincoln time in office, specifically the time and effort spent passing the 13th Amendment, I’ve read through Lincoln’s journey from childhood, to prairie lawyer, to Republican nominee.

Here are some interesting bits I’ve picked up from the book that I think frame Lincoln’s politically savvy and honest to goodness depiction in the film:

  • In order to defeat a pro-slavery candidate for the U.S. Senate, Lincoln had his followers shift their support to anti-Nebraska Act Democrat Lyman Trumbull. Lincoln put aside his own ambitions, for he was close to having the necessary majority to win the Senate seat, to defeat a pro-slavery platform. Trumbell won 50-41, with 45 of Lincoln’s converted supporters. Lincoln would even go on to attend Trumbull’s victory party! That kind of magnanimity is hard to image in today’s politics.
  • While his Republican rivals toured the Holy Land (Seward) or thought they had their party’s nomination locked-up because of their gravitas (Chase), Lincoln was always hard at work behind the scenes drumming up support for his presidential campaign and promoting himself through speeches. His hard work would pay off at the Republican convention in Chicago in a what seemed like a “surprise” victory to outsiders.

Lewis’s preformance as Lincoln has given him a “lock” on a Best Actor Oscar Nomination, according to Ebert. Lewis has twice won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his roles in “My Left Foot” and also “There Will Be Blood.”

Lewis has only appeared in five films since the year 2000, but dives deep into the characters he portrays. He is known to remain in character during the entire shooting schedule of films in true method acting technique.

“Lincoln” was released nationwide today, Nov. 16 to mostly positive reviews of the overall film and especially of Lewis’s accurate portrayal of the president that saved the Union.

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Categories: Lynn, Politics

Debate Recap!

by A.J. Mercincavage | November 17, 2012

This is much over due, but Lynn hosted a little event recently: The 3rd & Final Presidential Debate!

I was lucky enough to be chosen as Mitt Romney’s stand-in during the Commission on Presidential Debate’s rehearsal. That means I was on stage, got to sit where Mitt sat, and got to meet Bob Schieffer. My fellow stand-ins and I tried our best to meet the candidates in the flesh (at one point we may or may not have been politely asked to leave the Obama campaign trailer) but to no avail. We arrived early for rehearsals but missed the POTUS himself by about 5-10 minutes on the final day.

Still, it was an amazing experience. For more on my stint as a stand-in, read my blog entry for USA Today College here. Journalism legend Bob Schieffer himself even asked us questions on stage. That’s more than enough.

But it wasn’t all. I was credentialed to be in the Media Filing Center during the actual debate. After a long day of stand-in rehearsals and running around filming for various documentaries, I capitalized on the free coffee in the Budweiser Bar. There was free beer (talk about feed the beast!) but I think I would have fallen asleep if I had any.

When the debate ended I rushed to Spin Alley and was actually the first journalist to speak with former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. I’d been trying to speak with Gibbs all day. My efforts earlier had gotten me kicked out of the Obama campaign trailer and had provoked the ire of Gibb’s pushy press manager. When I finally got my time with Gibbs, I blew it. He entered Spin Alley right behind me, I turned and in the millisecond before all the other journalists converged on the two of us all I could manage was biggest softball of all: “Who won the debate?” Sigh.

The rest of my time in Spin Alley felt more like I was in the paint during a basketball game, but I got great footage of John McCain, John Kerry, Marco Rubio, and many more politicians. If my readers are worried that I didn’t collect anything of substance, I’d like to point out that I spent 20 minutes interviewing two British journalists from English Al Jazeera who slammed the substance of the debate, yet praised it as a necessity for the democratic process.

Essentially, I was a kid in a political candy store for a night.

Here are some of the best pictures of me and my fellow stand-ins:

The media sat in on our rehearsals and these images were broadcast all over the web via wire services. I got texts that I had made the front cover of newspapers from Colorado to New Jersey.

Also, CNN used footage of us walking on stage as b-roll during broadcasts the day of the debate. Basically, when a contributor spoke about something on are that the network didn’t necessarily have footage of, they would run us walking on stage and shaking hands.

This video by students I know in the marketing department does a great job of capturing Lynn’s big day: http://vimeo.com/51964130

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Categories: Lynn, Politics, South Florida

Setting the Stage

by A.J. Mercincavage | October 19, 2012

The 3rd and FINAL Presidential Debate is just around the weekend! Here is CBS preparing their live television set, right next to my residence hall…

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Categories: Lynn, Politics

Quick, who is Jamie Stiehm?

by A.J. Mercincavage | October 6, 2012

I’d like to take a moment and respond to a recent media piece from U.S. News & World: “Our Bland Presidential Debates” by Jamie Stiehm.

It starts out like this: “Quick, who’s ever heard of Lynn University?” and it details how debates “should be held at great centers of learning, or history, or architecture, or awesome natural beauty—jazzy places that energize the event, that sing of America.” You can read the entire piece here.

Stiehm provides a history lesson on how thousands of people gathered across the plains just to hear the Lincoln v. Douglas debates. She writes that debate settings used to matter and that she can’t tell her readers why Lynn was chosen to host the third Presidential debate.

I can.

Florida is one of the most pivotal states in the upcoming election. Both candidates have made routine visits to the state. Boca Raton is even the town in which the now famous 47% video was captured. Florida is the definition of the “battleground state.” What’s more is that the Lynn University administration worked tirelessly to bring the debate to this school.

Thousands of people will descend on Lynn in the next few weeks from all across the world, not the just from the Illinois plains. Millions will watch the debate on television. I don’t think Lincoln would have thought reaching that many people was “bland.”

I also have to say that Lynn does sing of America. It sings of an America with a growing internationality, with divided views and philosophies. It sings of the melting pot. That’s what I was always taught America was and that was what made it great.

Do I think Harvard or Yale would be a good venue for a debate? Sure. Do I think holding every debate at centers like Harvard gives an accurate view of America? Of course not. Even if the debate was held at the foot of Mount Rushmore, under the watchful eyes of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, I don’t think it would inspire the candidates to take more risks or be less bland. The viewers at home would still only see a red, white, and blue backdrop.

And to slam the Presidential Debate Commission for being non-partisan and ensuring no party gets an advantage in the debate, that just seems silly. Does anyone in their right mind want a partisan commission running these things? I’ll take seemingly unimportant coin flips over what glassware to use instead partisanship every time.

So let us have our day. This is an opportunity to introduce the world to Lynn.

And don’t kid yourself. I think Jamie Stiehm would have been thrilled to host a Presidential debate at Swarthmore College while she was there, even if it was “bland.”

Around the Corner

by A.J. Mercincavage | October 3, 2012

The third Presidential Debate used to seem like it was a long ways away on the horizon. You know, it was something President Ross talked about. It wasn’t actually going to happen, right?

Well it’s here. The first debate is tonight in Denver and the third won’t be far behind. Viewing parties have been planned and invitations have been sent.

I’ve personally been approved as an inside-the-fence worker for the Media Center and “Spin Alley”, aka Lynn’s gym. My name is also entered into the debate ticket lottery. You can’t miss a chance at viewing history and there is plenty to do here on campus during the debate.

Dr. Riordan and Vice President Malfitano held meetings two weeks ago for students on the activities available. There are viewing parties, cookouts, barbeque competitions, kickball games, and more.

This isn’t some far off event anymore (much like my graduation date, sigh). We’re just 19 days away.

Get used to it. Be proud.

About Me: Self-Starting

by A.J. Mercincavage | September 2, 2012

While you get to know me through my articles on the Democratic and Republican Conventions, it may be worthwhile for me to provide my own little biography for readers of Trust, but Verify.

I am a 23-year-old senior at Lynn, studying multimedia journalism. How I got to Lynn is a bit of an odyssey. After high school, I attended Northeastern University in Boston for a year. I didn’t care for school, and was tremendously unmotivated and unsure of myself. I withdrew after a year to take time off of school. However, I didn’t waste that time. I had a friend who made documentaries for charities, specifically a charity called Flying Kites in Kenya. And this friend had a crazy idea: come to India with him to help make a documentary on street children living in New Delhi. Naturally, and probably to the horror of my loving parents, I seized the opportunity.

During that two month trip to India I learned a lot about myself and about the world outside of my “home.” I had a reaction to my malaria pills, lost 20 pounds, and found my love for photography and interviewing people. By the time I got home, I knew that the ups and downs of the trip had changed me. I was more motivated. I knew that I had a real interest in journalism and that I flat out just enjoyed meeting new people and seeing new things. When and where else was I going to take photography like this?

To the relief of my loving parents, I started attending community college when I got back from India. What I once thought was purgatory for students who couldn’t make it into big, competitive schools, I found was anything but. I met great professors who helped me on my way. I still remember one Psychology teacher, whose name escapes me, tell me that if I didn’t want to work for anybody else, that I’d have to be a self-starter. That’s hard hitting for a student who wasn’t interested in well… anything at one time. I stayed in community college for two semester before succumbing to my itch for travel. This time I went to Kenya through contacts I had made during my first trip. I spent a week in Mombasa and Nairobi, where I took photographs for a Non-Governmental Organization.

When I got back home, I got to work sending out applications to four year universities. I wanted so badly to get back into school. (Quite a turnaround, huh?) The problem was that schools didn’t want me. I was rejected from half a dozen big, competitive journalism schools. Undiscouraged, I went on the College Board website and found communication schools in California and Florida. If they don’t want me, I thought, I’ll find someplace that does. Someplace warm!

And so, I arrived at Lynn during fall 2010. I haven’t looked back. Coming to Lynn has been one of the best things to happen to me. I found my Ithaca at the end of my educational odyssey. I found a Penelope too, in my girlfriend of almost two years, Sophia Barrett. I’ve gone to Cuba with Lynn’s J-Term program. I worked as a Resident Assistant, an event photographer, a go-getter. I’ve gotten involved as an editor of Lynn’s newspaper, iPulse. Most importantly, I’ve become a self-starter.

As my education at Lynn draws to a close, I’m eyeing up graduate programs and the prospect of law school. I want to get involved with politics, to be a participant. Hopefully readers of this blog will see me do just that.

RNC Week in Review

by A.J. Mercincavage | August 31, 2012

Only a few college students have their schools host a presidential debate. Fewer still attend a school that will host a debate and also send them to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. This semester, I was one of those lucky few.

All this week I’ve been in attendance at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL under the flag of Lynn’s College of International Communication. While we didn’t have the Double-Top-Secret Credentials that would get us on the convention floor, our stay in Tampa has been nothing short of extraordinary. I was able to participate in plenty of what the GOP calls “a convention without walls.”

On Monday, we drove up from Boca Raton through the last Floridian gusts of then Tropical Storm Isaac. We took a recess, much like the Republicans, until Tuesday morning. That’s when the action started. We went out and interviewed Ron Paul supporters and far-right religious protesters. Comedy Central’s Indecision 2012 crew was on hand putting together interviews.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that watching YouTube videos is a waste of time. I was able to get an interview with Jonathon Torres, Director of Digital Integration for the RNC, because as he walked by I recognized him from the GOPconvention YouTube channel. That night, our news team of students—myself, Sophia Barrett, Tammy Reyes, Patricia Lammle, and Ricky Freeberry—put our work together for an issue of Lynn’s iPulse.

Wednesday morning we got up early (that’s 5 a.m. for college students) for a live filming of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. The show, which airs 6-9 a.m., is doing a remote this week from Howl at the Moon Bar on Channelside Drive in Tampa. They’ve aptly renamed the place “Elephant Bar” for the week. We were able to catch several of the MSNBC guest analysts for interviews after the live shoot. I had brief interviews with Chuck Todd, Chief White House Correspondent for NBC, and Michael Steele, former RNC Chair and former Lt. Gov. of Maryland.

Michael Steele’s advice for young people interested in politics was simple: “Don’t sit around and wait for someone to give you permission to get involved, to take a leadership role, or take responsibility for the direction of the party.”

Today the roles were reversed. We, the students, were interviewed by reporters from The Hechinger Report and Inside Higher Ed.

Now we get to sit back, finish our daily pieces for iPulse and wait for the fireworks after Mitt Romney’s convention speech tonight. It’s been a hell of a week and I for one have passed out my fair share of business cards. But have I paid my fair share of income taxes? Have I even released my taxes yet? Sorry for the political humor. I’ve been neck deep in it for days now.

I’ll be traveling to Charlotte, NC next week, Sept. 3-7, with the same group of students to cover the Democratic National Convention for Lynn’s iPulse.

-A.J.