The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service hosted debate night on Feb. 27. Students and faculty came to listen to views presented by students representing the Socialist, Democratic and Republican parties.
Sam Cook, a senior majoring in philosophy and history, represented the Socialist party. Savannah Robinson, a junior majoring in philosophy, represented the Democratic party. Finally the Republican party was represented by Nick Piedmonte, a senior majoring in political science.
Each speaker was given up to three minutes to respond to questions. Once they had answered they were all given another minute to respond to anything that the others had said.
Questions for the debate started off strong with the first being, “Should the U.S. fund foreign wars?”
This question received passionate responses from each of the speakers, all having their own spin on the question, but ultimately agreeing that the US should not fund foreign wars.
“Not only is it unsustainable, it is viciously immoral,” said Cook.
While Robinson and Piedmonte also agreed, Piedmonte drew on his own military service while calling for support of our country’s military presence.
“…The second we leave there will be a power vacuum,” Piedmonte said.
The next question focused on the U.S.’s participation in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Piedmonte referred to the agreement as a sham whereas Robinson and Cook encouraged it while admitting that it didn’t go far enough to address the problem.
“If the U.S. thinks they can tackle [climate change] on their own… there will be consequences that will come of that,” said Robinson.
The third question was about the U.S.’s immigration system which received a different response from each of the speakers.
Piedmonte encouraged following legal immigration with a strong border whereas both Robinson and Cook called for compassionate approaches.
While the two had similar starting views, during their responses they each focused on different aspects of the topic. Cook went into protecting labor across borders by comparing it to international capitalism.
“Capital has international solidarity, labor should have international solidarity,” explained Cook.
Robinson on the other hand emphasized on the removal of birthright citizenship in order to help DREAMers – undocumented youth that either serve in the military or gain a college education while maintain a good record.
After focusing on global and national issues, the fourth question was about public transportation in Cedar City.
Again, Robinson and Cook approached the question from different angles.
Cook focused on providing better options to bring disabled and elderly members to more fully engage with society through easy transportation. He compared the current system to systems in other countries and their rural communities, commenting on how it didn’t stack up.
“The question is whether we have the will… to make these opportunities for members of our society,” said Cook.
Robinson’s focus was on providing better options that could help stimulate a night life for the community and tourists. She also commented on how it could help reduce unnecessary pollution by reducing how many students have to drive.
Piedmonte encouraged implementing it if Cedar residents wanted a public transportation system, but mostly deferred to the other speakers as he only has a few months left in the city.
The final question was a surprise question focusing on student debt. Speakers were given a five minute break to prepare their responses before they each shared their views.
Robinson’s focus was on lowering overall tuition costs and promoting trade schools rather than emphasizing college for everyone, including students that might not succeed.
Piedmonte called for the government to move away from education and stop providing funding altogether.
Cook called for loan forgiveness due to the potential growth the economy could receive as well as calling for knowledge to be considered a human right.
Overall, the speakers kept their audience interested in the discussion and left them talking about how each speaker performed.
Each speaker was praised, but many emphasized Cook as the frontrunner despite Piedmonte winning the debate according to the Leavitt Center’s survey. Some of the audience were even questioning the results due to the survey not having a limit on how many times you could fill it out.
Story by: Alex Schilling
Photos by: Alex Schilling