A Centre Student Attends the VP Debate, shares perspective

A Centre Student Attends the VP Debate, shares perspective

Centre student Alex Gardner participated in the Centre Student Lottery and won a seat in the hall at the Vice Presidential Debate. Below, he shares his perspective with the Ace readers, post-debate.

Centre student Alex Gardner, live inside Centre’s Norton Center for the Arts


Vice President Joe Biden and Congressmen Paul Ryan squared off in Danville, Kentucky tonight and did not disappoint. The expected fireworks show began promptly at 9, showcasing how entertaining politics can be.

As a Centre student lucky enough to win a ticket for the debate, I was simply content to be in the building but the clever retorts and sharp criticisms surpassed expectations. The monumental lead up to the debate in infrastructure, invested time, and energy appears to have paid off for Centre. As for the debate itself, it seems evident to me that Joe Biden displayed why he is, and should remain, the sitting Vice-President.

Biden attacked Romney and Paul on everything under the sky in sharp contrast to Obama’s flat performance last Wednesday. The energy and passion displayed by Biden will hopefully blow fresh wind into the Obama/Biden sails which have been dampened by poor polling numbers in the last week. Biden’s personality and rhetoric was too much for a young Ryan. I am not sure if this was evident on television, but Ryan took a sip of water more than 10 times during the debate; Biden didn’t take a sip. A parched mouth might indicates unease or stress or nervousness. Biden commanded the stage. Biden and Martha Raddatz appeared to work well together, while Ryan seemed to clash with her. At points it even appeared that Raddatz and Biden would team up on Ryan, making him defensive and uncomfortable. Biden is no stranger to debates and his larger than life personality embraces moments like these.

As a Centre student, this debate experience has been one of a kind, incredible to say the least. Being able to taste an atmosphere such as this only whets my appetite for politics even more, and I know I’m not the only one who has caught the bug. I’ve talked to numerous students who say they are excited to vote and can’t believe they are actually this excited about politics.

The outpouring of support from the Alumni has been powerful as well. I would estimate half of the volunteers recruited by the college were Alumni, and Alumni donations were one of the main reasons Centre was able to host this debate. The ‘Centre Mafia’ (as it’s called) runs deep; the experience each Centre student has here is reflected in our Alumni’s overwhelming desire to continue to support the school.

The debate experience was not just restricted to the actual debate though. I work part time at a restaurant in Danville and had the opportunity to wait on a US Representative. While it was a small interaction, it was still quite memorable and a unique opportunity only available because the debate was hosted here.

Centre President John Roush announces the winners in the VP Debate Student Lottery

Some of the debate experiences could also be construed as inconveniences — like having to move our cars off campus — but after tonight, I think even the most curmudgeonly of Centre students would agree it was worth it. So many students will be able to walk away from tonight with stories and experiences completely unique to a debate; being interviewed on and working for national news networks, meeting with politicians, and working with professionals across all fields.

Before the debate, I had a 20 minute impromptu conversation with an NBC producer who convinced me that I should work a campaign. These experiences cannot be quantified or completely cataloged, but the entirety of the debate will reverberate in Danville and on this campus for years to come.


Lexington native Alex Gardner, Centre class of 2014, was one of the 100 Centre students selected to attend. He  is a Henry Clay graduate who’s double majoring in econ and government at Centre (he will travel to Strasbourg next semester as part of Centre’s study abroad program). He participated in the lottery, hoping to attend because, he says “the presidential and vice presidential debates are the purest form of the ideological debates held by our country. They are a snapshot of our country’s beliefs.” Alex is the son of Lexington attorney and Centre Alum, Brian Gardner (class of 1981).

Click to read Ace’s complete coverage of the Vice Presidential Debate, Live on site in Danville.