A Lack of Discourse

The crowd that gathered for Wednesday’s Presidential Forum, run by the Andover First Amendment Society (AFAS), seemed to have a general sense of excitement. Unlike in year’s past, AFAS decided to run the Presidential Forum independently from Student Council. The change was a surprise to Malin Adams ’09, School President, who asked the forum’s moderators to avoid confrontation with the candidates in their questioning. Adams and Lawrence Dai ’09, Executive Secretary, cited memories of their own nerves last winter as a reason to avoid contributing to this year’s candidates’ anxiety. We know that public speaking can be a very stressful process, but it is only fair to students that we hear how our next president will perform under pressure, pressure that comes with speaking at an All-School Meeting, not just to a small crowd at Uncommons. The School President is the students’ ambassador to the outside world, but the Presidential Forum provided us with no evidence that the candidates will serve that high-pressure position well. The questions asked at the forum were monotonous and in some cases eerily similar to those asked in last week’s Phillipian Presidential Special. The answers were ones we’ve heard a hundred times, this year and every year before. Why do you want to be School President? Because I love Andover. What’s the most important initiative on your platform? Increased communication. Most of the candidates’ responses were repetitive and long-winded, and the forum lacked any actual debate between the candidates to keep the audience engaged. Listening to reiterations of the same campaign ideas we have all already heard simply puts everyone to sleep, and the forum digresses from its purpose. Real debate lets the audience learn who the most skilled candidates are, as well as those who are most entertaining to watch. AFAS maintains that they had planned on asking more pointed questions before Adams intervened. Adams should not have persuaded AFAS to reconsider their questions, and AFAS should not have backed down from the opportunity to ask some real questions. Instead, we listened to four moderators ask four dull questions, the sharpest of which, regarding student sentiment that Student Council is an ineffectual institution, was generally met with the weakest of answers, all hovering around the ambiguous middle ground. The Presidential Forum is not intended to serve the six candidates. The primary principle of a public debate is that it serves the voting public. Perhaps encouraging audience members to ask questions, or urging candidates to challenge each other, could have led to a more lively, gripping exhibition. Now we, without the benefit of learning anything significant about the candidates, must make our decision. Hopefully next year we will have the opportunity to hear real debate from our candidates.