Longwood, More than an Institution of Higher Learning: Reflections After the VP Debate

I was in a rhetoric class back in the fall of 2015 when I heard from my professor that Longwood University would host the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate. While my classmates seemed excited about it, I was shocked. As someone who grew up 25 miles north of Farmville, in an even smaller town, I was baffled as to how such a feat could have been accomplished by a small liberal arts school. This was right around the time I had started feeling like I was slowly flourishing in the Longwood community. And, to be honest, that made me more skeptical and even a little apprehensive about Longwood’s hosting the VP debate. My mind began to race with questions surrounding the logistics and the images of my beloved university getting flooded by a multitude of outsiders. I childishly felt like holding Longwood closer to me, and not sharing it with anyone else.

My perspective on Longwood’s hosting the VP debate changed drastically at the Student Ticket Lottery on Sunday, October 2, 2016. When the ticket winners were being announced, I was sitting in my car with no hope of getting an audience member status inside the Willett Hall. But, it happened–President Reveley called my name! I was going to watch the debate live and in person on Tuesday, October 4th! Once again, I was shocked. I had never been so lucky before. It was right then and there when it all became clear to me: Longwood University is a haven for opportunity. I, along with my other peers who were going to attend the debate, was a part of the experience of a lifetime.

From that point on, my boyfriend and I immensely enjoyed the various events leading to the debate: MKTO feeding of the spirit laid out before them, members of the community mingling with students, and volunteers hustling about in their yellow shirts. Following suit of many others, we decided to walk throughout campus, checking out the news equipment. The debate was only two days away.

On Monday morning, I received my ticket from Lancaster Hall and awaited the email with my instructions. Finally, on Tuesday, just hours before the debate was to start, I received the word. I drove to Lancer Park, received my official ticket, completed the security checks, and was shuttled into the perimeter–in the Bedford Hall. All of the ticketed guests stayed in Bedford for about two hours before we were allowed into Willett. Upon entering, I was taken aback by the lighting, the cool air, and the media perched above the crowd. I quickly took a few photos before finding my seat and getting settled. Students, VIP Guests, and others were all equals now. Smiles, hugs, phone cameras, and personal conversations were rampant. After an hour of that in Debate Hall, the announcement was made for us to find our seats. A silence fell over the entire hall. After a few more minutes, the debate was underway. And, there I was–witnessing rhetorical practice in action.

This experience enabled me to delve deeper into my rhetorical studies. At that moment, I realized how proud I am to be a student at Longwood University. I didn’t have to shake hands with a VIP or be interviewed by any media members to understand the most important takeaway from this experience: Longwood is more than an institution of higher learning. It is a highly valuable and respectable place for nurturing relationships and gaining confidence. Longwood is a safe haven for individual growth, and it’s where I proudly call home.