Hofstra University, building anticipation for what may be among the most-watched presidential debates in history, announced Thursday that it will hold a series of lectures, panels and film screenings leading up to the Sept. 26 event.
The pre-debate programs, which are all free and open to the public, will begin on Sept. 12 with a presentation featuring Michael E. Mann, a Penn State University meteorology professor who has written a satirical book on the climate change denial movement.
Over the 10 days that follow, Hofstra will host two dozen other events, including a discussion led by David Axelrod, a former top strategist for President Barack Obama, entitled “The evolving media and political landscape”; a conversation with former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who last year was briefly a candidate for president; a panel debating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement; a screening of “American Umpire,” a documentary focused on the U.S.’ role as “the world’s police force.”
“Giving students the chance to hear from policymakers, journalists and scholars across the ideological spectrum is an essential part of their participation in these historic events,” Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said in a statement, noting that similar programs were held in advance of the school’s 2008 and 2012 debates.
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates last month awarded Hofstra the first debate after Wright State University in Ohio withdrew, citing security costs. Hofstra will become the first school to host three consecutive debates.
When Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump take the stage, a record number of viewers, possibly approaching 100 million, could be tuning in, political watchers have said. Whether the third-party candidates — Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein — are invited to participate will be determined by their September polling status.
“This is a historic election for many reasons, and that makes interest especially high from students, faculty, and especially the community,” said Meena Bose, director of Hofstra’s Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency.
She said a record-number of students are signing up to volunteer for debate-related planning and set-up: “Interest is through the roof.”
For more information on Hofstra’s pre-debate programs, including times and dates, visit Hofstra.edu/debate.