Taking Personalities Out of the Game: Hun Mock Presidential Debate

     On November 2 , one day prior to the election day, the Hun Civics program hosted a “Mock Presidential Debate,” which mimicked the presidential debate but with a twist: instead of having the candidates themselves, the debate had candidate representatives.

     The representative for Donald Trump was performed by Brody Pasieka ‘22, while the representative for Joe Biden was performed by Devon Pasieka ‘21. The siblings had the opportunity to act in character and enquire their opponent.

   The moderator of this debate, Mr. Hart, was responsible for asking questions and timing responses. 

     “The goal of the debate was to inform the Upper School community about what was on the ballot in the presidential election through a better understanding of each candidate’s record and their proposed policy positions,” said Mr. Hart, who created the Mock Debate, “In this sense, we wanted to take personalities and other personal accusations out of the picture and focus instead on how their policies would influence our lives if they were elected.”

     Mr. Hart also believes that this debate was successful in capturing the attention of Hun students and keeping them informed on current politics. 

Here is more of his thoughts:

 

Q: What was your favorite part about the Mock Presidential Debate?

A: Watching Brody and Devon get into character. They clearly took their tasks seriously and did their best to portray their campaigns’ positions authentically and appropriately. Even so, you could tell that there was some sibling competitiveness that came through in their delivery that gave the performance even more energy and entertainment.

 

Q: What inspired you to set up this debate?

A: This debate was originally Mr. Hews’s idea. We agreed that it would be important to show the school community how to compete with ideas and policy positions while preserving statesmanship. 

 

Q: What was the goal of this debate and do you think it was achieved? 

A: The goal was to inform the Upper School community about what was on the ballot in the presidential election through a better understanding of each candidate’s record and their proposed policy positions. In this sense, we wanted to take personalities and other personal accusations out of the picture and focus instead on how their policies would influence our lives if they were elected. I think we did achieve that.

 

Q: What are some similarities and differences between this Mock debate and the real Presidential Debate?

A: The mock debate felt like an alternate universe compared to the actual presidential debates. Our spokespeople actually answered each question, even when the questions were difficult. They also spoke directly to the audience instead of talking over each other. While there were some interruptions written in for entertainment value, they seemed light rather than aggressive. There is a distinct difference when the two debaters respect each other and accept each other’s right to speak and be heard.  

There were also some important similarities. As we found in our research teams, Trump’s campaign wanted to emphasize the economy, the Supreme Court, deregulation, and certain parts of his foreign policy record, while Biden’s campaign wanted to emphasize how they would respond to Covid, healthcare, the environment, and social justice. We saw those same focus areas play out in the debates themselves.

 

Q:What are some general comments you have about the debate?

A: It took a lot of care and courage from the Civics scholars to prepare for this event. In today’s polarized political climate, we had to make sure that we presented each candidate’s policy positions as accurately as possible while working against any personal biases that we might hold. 

The Civics scholars who helped with this project came through with flying colors from top to bottom.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to Ms. Bishop, Mr. Helvey, Mr. Obwoge, and Mr. Sacco for their help and advice during our preparations. Most importantly, I want to hold up Brody and Devon for the immense courage they showed in performing before the entire Upper School community and portraying each policy position passionately, even in some cases, when they did not agree with the positions themselves. This event succeeded because of how diligently they prepared and how seriously they took their task. 

 

Both representatives, Brody Pasieka and Devon Pasieka, discussed their thoughts on the debate:

 

Brody Pasieka (representing Donald Trump):

 

Q: What do you think your candidate’s weakest topic was to talk about?

A:  I believe my candidate’s weakest topic was the Coronavirus response.

 

Q: What do you think your candidate’s strongest topic was to talk about?

A: I believe my candidate’s strongest topic was on the subject of the Economy.

 

Q: How would you describe the process of creating the Mock Presidential Debate?

A: I believe the process of crafting the debate was relatively smooth. Each member of the team had their own specific role, and completed it on time to the best of their ability. It was a great team effort.

 

Q: What was your favorite part/aspect of the debate?

A: My favorite aspect was conducting the debate against my sister. Her and I have a very good relationship, and a strong rapport with one another. I hope it was as entertaining for the students and faculty as it was for us.

 

Q: Could you leave a comment about the overall debate?

A: The Mock Debate was essential for students to hear, as the policies of each candidate were not communicated effectively in the real presidential debates. 

 

Devon Pasieka (representing Joe Biden):

 

Q: What do you think your candidate’s weakest topic was to talk about?

A: My candidate’s weakest topic to discuss was definitely the Supreme Court. There’s been quite a controversy over how Biden could potentially “pack the court” to undo the conservative majority.

 

Q: What do you think your candidate’s strongest topic was to talk about?

A: My candidate’s strongest topic was the emphasis on international relationships and foreign policy as well as working against systemic racism and inequality.

 

Q: How would you describe the process of creating the Mock Presidential Debate?

A: The process consisted of a few weeks of meetings and research done by some other Civics Scholars. We had to stay up to date with the debates and everything happening around us. We then turned this research into a script that we used in the debate. We held a dress rehearsal the evening before as well.

 

Q: What was your favorite part/aspect of the debate?

A: My favorite part of the debate was being able to “compete” against my brother. We both really enjoyed getting into character and helping Hun students become more politically engaged.

 

Q: Could you leave a comment about the overall debate?

A: Overall, I think the work the Civics Program is doing to keep Hun students civically engaged is awesome. Things such as the mock election and debate allow us to make all the information being thrown at us easily digestible.



At the end of the Mock Presidential Debate, a “voting form” was sent out. Hun students ended up voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as their new President and Vice President. The results seem to correspond with the current election results.