Centre students among lucky few allowed in debate venue

Published On: Oct 11 2012 10:56:17 AM HST   Updated On: Oct 11 2012 06:23:00 PM HST

Centre College is the center of the political universe for Thursday night as Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Rep. Paul Ryan face-off in their lone debate.

Debate images

From campaign signs to past presidents to fire hydrants sporting red white and blue, even the pizza has turned partisan, but the level of excitement is strictly nonpartisan.

While the main event is of course Biden vs. Ryan, the buildup on campus is a spectacle in its own right.

Music, vendors and big crowds surround the national network live broadcasts.

While Centre College isn't quite used to the crowds, it has hosted a vice presidential debate before, back in 2000.

Some lucky students will be among the crowd inside the Norton Center for the Arts Thursday for the debate.

Centre College students invited to VP debate

“About 6:30 this morning I got a text message that said, ‘Please respond right now.’ So I did that and I've been up ever since,” said Parker Lawson.

Lawson was just hoping to enjoy one day with his college directly in the national spotlight.

He never thought he'd actually be inside the building for the vice presidential debate.

He is one of only about 700 people given that privilege.

“It's all a whirlwind right now, but once I sit down tonight I think it'll really set in that I'm watching live a debate that will be broadcast to over 70 million people around the world,” Lawson said.

Centre College found out Wednesday that about 100 students would be allowed into the debate and that those highly coveted spots would be allotted through a lottery.

Lawson was drawn No. 103 as an alternate and on Thursday morning a seat opened up.

“We did 25 alternates and I was fortunate to be one of those alternates who's getting in so I'm really excited,” Lawson said.

Lawson said he's most excited about the spontaneity and unpredictability that embodies big-time debates.

“The opportunity tonight is that nobody knows what's going to happen, so the opportunity to just be there and see how funny Vice President Biden will be or how aggressive Congressman Ryan will be,” Lawson said.

His one hope is for a Centre College trademark.

“I hope there is a culture of civility in tonight's debate,” Lawson said.

"I'm glad that people are interested. Sometimes I feel that I'm alone in all my worries. I am glad they're here," said Tom Lyons, who drove from Louisville for the debate. "This is very cool, very unique, awesome."

The cold almost kept Indiana resident McCauley Dotson away, but he said you just don't get to do something like this every day.

"I think it's a very unique experience to be actually here to see it live instead of just seeing it at home, it's a different perspective," said Dotson.

Centre College, Danville hosts Biden-Ryan debate


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