Students Share Takeaways From The Vice Presidential Debate


Lukas Werner

Talking about the vice presidential debate, senior Sawyer Paugh said, “it made me feel like politics is coming back to civility.”

Mia Kritzer, Assistant Editor

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, California Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence went head-to-head in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the 2020 vice presidential debate. 

In this debate, the candidates faced questions about health care, abortion, and COVID-19, among other topics. 

The Falconer spoke to six students to collect their insight on the debate. 

Senior Sawyer Paugh felt better about this debate than the recent presidential debate. “It felt more like a serious debate, it felt more respectable,” Paugh said. “It was polite, it made me feel like politics is coming back to civility, because in today’s world, as people probably know, this civility has kind of been lost.”

Towards the end of the debate, America became captivated by the appearance of a fly that took refuge on Pence’s head. Freshman Sarah Doles pointed out that people seemed to pay more attention to the fly rather than the content of the debate itself. “Especially with our generation, people will watch the debate, but I feel there’s a lot of [talk about] the fly on his head,” Doles said. “I feel like people are more leaning towards that than what the candidates are actually talking about.”

Junior Aaron Leonard-Graham thought that the debate’s strongest moment came from Harris, when she discussed her proposal to protect people with pre-existing conditions. “It stuck with me so much because my mom has lupus,” Leonard-Graham said. “I know that I would want her to make sure she has everything she needs.” 

For Paugh, affordable health care is also an important aspect of a presidential administration. “For Pence I would ask, what health care plan can you propose that will cover pre-existing conditions and will also not raise premiums?” Paugh said. 

In addition to affordable health care, a strong economy and the avoidance of involvement in foreign wars is what bears political importance to Paugh.

Leonard-Graham said that he values trustworthy leadership that puts the American people first. “I need to make sure that there are rights for everyone, for people of color, for the people in the LGBT community, for human rights, for women’s rights,” he said.

A moment in the debate that stood out to junior Nyah Torbert was Harris’ response to when she was repeatedly interrupted by Pence. “When Pence continued to interrupt her, or make her answer his questions, she was like, ‘I’m talking, it’s my turn to talk,’ Torbet said. “I thought it was really cool.”

Senior Gina Roland also observed the patience that Harris exhibited on the debate stage. “When [Pence] did interrupt her, she was like, ‘no, I’m speaking,’” Roland said. “She’s very much a strong woman and she’s not going to let somebody interrupt her. Also, Pence, he’s smart; he knew a lot about past stuff and past occurrences coming up for the debate.” 

Paugh said that he observed Harris to be a proficient public speaker. “She knows how to talk to people publicly,” Paugh said. “I think both of them do, but Kamala was pretty good at it, considering she was Attorney General for a long time.”

Paugh also described Pence’s strength as his ability to be very straight-faced. “He takes things pretty seriously,” Paugh said.

Freshman Alejandra Garcia said she thought that Harris had plenty of rebuttals for Pence’s arguments. “In my opinion, Pence was defending Trump’s allies the entire time, he had no good points,” she said. “[Harris] has a really strong voice and made it really clear of what [the Biden] campaign was all about.” 

A stand out moment for Garcia was when the murder of Breonna Taylor was brought up, especially Harris’s reaction. “It was very sympathetic to the family and was very sincere,” Garcia said. “But then when they got to Pence, it almost seemed sincere at first, but then there was a total regret in his voice, he said he trusted our justice system.” 

The closing of the debate, which was a question asked by an eighth grade student, resonated with Roland. “I think the strongest moment was the last question where the eighth grader asked, ‘how are citizens supposed to get along if political leaders can’t even get along,’” she said.

In response to this question, Pence replied by referencing the relationship between late Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who shared a deep friendship despite their ideological and political differences. 

Harris answered the question by talking about the potential of America’s future. “I do believe the future is bright,” Harris said. “It will be because of your leadership, and it will be because we fight for each person’s voice through their vote and we get engaged in this election — you have the ability through your work, and eventually your vote, to determine the future of our country and what its leadership looks like.”

It is unclear whether it will be the last debate of the 2020 presidential campaign, as the second presidential debate was canceled due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to participate in the virtual format.

Torbert was impressed to see Harris in action. “We’ve seen Elizabeth Warren up there, but I’ve never seen a Black woman up there,” Torbert said. “I think it was just really powerful and it was something I had never seen before. I mean, [with] the way that both Biden and Trump acted last week, it was just kind of a breath of fresh air.”