BYU students eager for presidential debates


For Chelsea Borup, being a first-time voter is a “big responsibility,” not only because it is her first time voting but because she has yet to decide which presidential candidate she will vote for.

Borup, from Eagle, Idaho, studying human development, said the upcoming presidential debates will play a big role in her decision on which presidential candidate to vote for. In an effort to make the debates a fun and educational experience, Borup and her friends invited 150 people to watch the presidential debates taking place on Wednesday at a student apartment complex.

Borup calls the gathering “The Party of all Parties” to welcome friends from any political party to come and enjoy the presidential debates in a social setting. The only requirement is to come decked out in red, white and blue attire. Borup said gatherings like this will allow her and her first-time-voting friends to make important and informed decisions in the upcoming election.

With the first presidential debate coming up, students are eager to show their enthusiasm and patriotism. Photo by Whitnie Soelberg

“For me, this is more than just a vote,” Borup, 20, said. “This is about developing my opinion and an education behind the vote. Anyone can go out and vote, but our country will only get stronger if everyone has their own beliefs and opinions behind their vote along with a willingness to be educated and stay educated.”

Like Borup, other BYU students have planned activities to watch the presidential debates covering domestic policy. For many students, this November will be their first time voting in a presidential election. Whether they are politically involved or not, students are making efforts to watch the debate so they can make informed decisions when voting.

Among these students are Lauren Barden and A.J. Swartwood. The two would seem to be “unlikely friends,” as  Barden is a Republican and Swartwood is a Democrat. They have been friends ever since they competed together in New York to win the 2011 National Championship for the BYU Model United Nations chapter.

The two friends use one-liners from presidential candidates of past debates to tease each other. They said that this upcoming debate will give them new “firearms” to tease one another, as well as a chance to expand their viewpoints of each candidate. Swartwood and Barden plan on recording the debate, rewinding it and discussing each issue that is brought up.

“We have no problem being sassy with each other, but we do it in a civil way,” Barden said, a junior from Minneapolis, Minn., majoring in political science.

Despite their ideological differences, Swartwood considers them to be “political homies.” They too have planned a get-together with their friends to watch the presidential debates and become more educated on each political candidate. Although they both agreed they will likely disagree during the debates, Swartwood says the two can agree on one thing.

“As much as we disagree, one thing we do agree on is that this election is likely the most important that we have had in a long time and for a long time to come,” said Swartwood, majoring in communications. “There are two very different visions for the future, I think in a very literal, real way we have the chance to basically control our future.”

He continued by encouraging students to view the debate for themselves.

“As students who are soon to graduate, this election affects our future more than anybody else,” Swartwood said. “So to the extent that we can be informed and see the future president of the United States talking about what he believes and why he believes it, I think this is a valuable experience that we need to take part of.”

Barden, vice president of the BYU College Republicans, said she also thinks it is important for students to watch the debates, but she also expressed her excitement to watch it with people who think differently than she does.

“I think it is really good when people with different ideologies get together to talk about issues,” Barden said. “I think that we can learn a lot from each other. No party is perfect, no party is completely clean, they are both to blame. I think that the debates are a really fun environment to come together and share ideas and stand for what you believe in.”

Barden sees the debates as an important step in learning about subjects that will affect voters long-term,  as well as an opportunity for voters to be informed in such a close presidential race.

“We have a duty, since we have the opportunity to live in a free country, to participate in our future,” Barden said. “We have the chance to decide what type of an environment will exist once we leave college and what type of environment will be there for our children when they grow up. I think it is important that we show we are grateful for our liberty by exercising our right to use it.”

On Wednesday night, Chelsea Borup will be sporting her red, white and blue attire and said that the debates will be a fun way for her and her friends to be politically involved.

“The tone of the party is to come, have fun, be with your friends, but get educated about this big event,” Borup said. “For a lot of us it is our first time voting; I know it is mine, and I feel a lot of responsibility. This is just a way to make something that seems so daunting easier.”

The upcoming presidential debate will take place on Oct. 3 in Denver. The Universe is sending a staff of students to cover the debate. For live coverage, go to, watch on 11News or follow us on twitter @universemetro.

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