Why the vice presidential debate matters to Utah

For the first time in its history, the state of Utah will host a national political debate, shining an international spotlight on its capital city. On Oct. 7, 2020, the vice presidential candidates will take the stage at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus. Hosting the debate is a tremendous honor and provides an opportunity for students and Utahns alike to experience a key moment in our country’s democratic process.

Headshot of Jason Perry

Jason Perry

Utah has a history of successfully hosting significant and historic events. After the 2002 Winter Olympics, our state became well known around the world for the hospitality and friendly nature of its residents. The vice presidential debate is expected to draw over 100 million viewers worldwide and will give us a similar opportunity to highlight the best of our state and its people.

The University of Utah chose to host this debate with our students in mind. It is never too early to educate our youth about democracy and our political process and what better opportunity could there be than a front row seat to one of the nation’s largest political events. From kindergarteners to college students, it is vital that Utah’s students learn about the importance of civic engagement and their right to vote.

At the University of Utah, we are working to provide students with meaningful opportunities to engage with the debate. From incorporating the debate into the curriculum to filling vital volunteer roles, our students will have many opportunities to engage with and learn from this historical event on our campus.

Our valued partner, the Utah Debate Commission, has worked with the Utah State Board of Education and business partners to create a curriculum for all K-12 students. Teachers may use these resources to incorporate the debate into their classes.

A statewide essay contest is also underway to engage students at all levels, from kindergarten to college, in the electoral process. The 300-word submissions should answer the question, “If you could ask the vice presidential candidates one question, what would you ask and why?”

We are excited to learn what questions our youth would ask if they had the opportunity to meet the candidates. We hope to receive submissions from all 41 school districts in Utah as well as college-age students. The essays will be evaluated by each district and college before being submitted to the Utah Debate Commission, which will determine a winning essay from each grade level.

Winning essays will be published in The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News, and may be submitted to the moderator of the debate as a potential question for the candidates.

On behalf of the Debate Steering Committee at the U, we are honored to host the nation’s only vice presidential debate—we are not just the University of Utah, we are the University for Utah.