University of Denver and the First Presidential Debate: Conflict Resolution and a Brief DU Perspective

By Megan Sehr on October 15, 2012

Last Friday, I attended an event hosted by University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School for International Studies entitled, “The 2012 Presidential Debate: Conflict Resolution, Violence, and Politics.”  It was a discussion panel featuring Dr. Karen Feste, director of the Conflict Resolution Program at the Korbel School; Dr. Cindy Fukami, a core faculty member at the Daniels College of Business; and, Dr. Darrin Hicks, a core faculty member at the Department of Communication Studies and the advisor for DU’s debate team.

Presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Photo by don relyea at

I initially went to the event for my Advanced News Writing and Reporting course; but as I listened to the panelists discuss their views of the debate and the candidates, I started to reflect on the presidential debate that had taken place on my campus merely two days before.

All three graduate-level professors felt that Mitt Romney was much more aggressive than the incumbent President Barack Obama.

“Mitt Romney played the prosecutor, demanded the last word, interrupted,” said Feste.  “Obama didn’t argue against misstatements, and he appeared weak because he was not as aggressive as Mitt Romney.”

Hicks relied on his debating experience to analyze the first presidential debate, and he came to the conclusion that Romney won the debate.

“Romney upended expectations, and he was able to establish a more unique position,” said Hicks.  “He made it very difficult for President Obama to do anything in that debate.”

Listening to the panelists describe their own analysis of the first presidential debate, I tried to figure out what were my thoughts on DU’s debate.  Who did I think was the winner of Wednesday night’s debate?  What was my opinion of the candidates?

I came to a few conclusions.

  1. I agreed with Hick’s analysis.  I believed that Romney won the debate, because he was able to present a new, moderate position the American public.  For some reason, President Obama was unable to debate at the same level as Mitt Romney.  President Obama’s efforts appeared weak next to Mitt Romney; and, if his mediocre performance continues throughout the election, then I think the President will have a hard time defeating Mitt Romney at the polls.
  2. After listening to the discussions taking place on campus, I heard many individuals accuse one candidate of being dishonest while hailing the honesty of the other.  A quick look at PolitiFact revealed that both candidates participated in telling a series of half-truths about their plans and the other candidate’s plans.  In my opinion, both individuals are politicians and they have to appeal to what they think the American people want to hear.  Each one has their own argument they’re making, and their own spin they’re trying to achieve.
  3. Many people said that Jim Lehrer failed to moderate the debate, but I liked that the candidates were able to hash out their perspectives against each other.  For an informed person closely following the election, the arguments made at the debate may not have been completely new.  However, for the American citizen that had just tuned into the election, the debate provided a way for the candidates to explain their positions with more depth.

Over a week has passed since the first presidential debate, and the candidates still have to come forward in two more debates.  As Election Day closes in, both Romney and Obama will have to step up their game in this very close election year.

Megan Sehr is a sophomore at the University of Denver, and she is majoring in International Studies and Journalism Studies with minors in History and Hebrew. She wants to go into international journalism, and is interested in Middle Eastern politics and culture. She loves writing, reading, poetry, Mad Men, and good discussions.

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