The Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, president of Creighton University, announced in his annual convocation address that Creighton hopes to host a presidential debate on campus in 2020.
The event would be one of the four presidential and vice-presidential debates that occur just before the national election in November 2020.
In his address, the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson expressed his excitement about the event, “I think the attention Creighton would receive for hosting the debate would give us a global stage for promoting our academic programs and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic institution of higher learning.”
According to Jim Berscheidt, chief communications and marketing officer at Creighton, the timing for this event is opportune.
"The Presidential Lecture Series evening with former Secretaries of State Dr. Madeleine Albright and Gen. Colin Powell was well-received by the campus community,” Berscheidt said, “which prompted a discussion regarding hosting a larger event that could shine a significant spotlight on Creighton.”
He believes the national coverage would benefit Creighton’s publicity.
“The debate would bring 3,000 national and international journalists to Omaha and our campus for several days, which provides an opportunity for us to showcase the University in many different ways,” he said. “Among other coverage, television networks would use Creighton buildings as backdrops during broadcasts.”
Berscheidt believes the only challenge they will encounter will be the work required to host such a highly public event. However, he is currently leading a small staff group to successfully submit the application.
Creighton will submit the formal application to the Commission on Presidential Debates by April 2.
Berscheidt also stressed that the event would not endorse or campaign for a single candidate, rather just host a debate.
The date and names of the universities selected can be expected to be released this fall.
Katie Kentfield, a College of Arts and Sciences senior and political science major, believes hosting a debate brings great representation to the Midwest and Creighton’s Jesuit values.
“This event would place politics at the fingertips of Creighton students,” Kentfield said, “which in turn, will increase political participation and lead to the questioning and discovery of America’s most pressing issues.”
Kentfield is quite acclimated in the world of politics, having interned in the nation’s capital for a congressman, a senator and the House Committee on Ways and Means.
“Creighton University has the chance to be written in the history books alongside the name of the President chosen to represent America after the 2020 election,” she said. “The responsibility of hosting a presidential election is accompanied by reporters who want to know what we, the students, think. I believe that hosting a presidential debate is intrinsically accompanied by an increase in student involvement, as well as increased curiosity about how American politics function.”
Kentfield did, however, express her concern that the event could potentially politically polarize the campus rather than unite the student body.
“Creighton’s political environment can often be observed from 24th street. It seems as if the College of Arts and Sciences is more so liberal-leaning; whereas, the College of Business has conservative roots,” Kentfield said. “Please note, that this is a generalization that I am making through pure inductive reasoning.”
“With that said, it would be a tremendous honor and privilege to host a presidential debate and Creighton should accept the opportunity and address the difficult political questions that accompany such an event,” she added.