With less than a week until the presidential election, the George Washington University College Democrats and Georgetown Students for McCain-Palin debated human rights and some of the political issues that have characterized the 2008 presidential campaign on Monday in GW's Marvin Center Continental Ballroom.
The debate, which was moderated by GW professor and CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno, featured peaceful bipartisanship without the political jabs of a debate last week between the GW CDs and College Republicans. Sesno asked questions that were submitted by various student organizations at both GW and Georgetown.
"The election is about us. People still have hope in the ability to do right," said James Jones, a senior and member of the CDs. Other speakers included Matt Ingoglia, a sophmore CD member, Alliston Wagner, a sophomore at Georgetown and member of SMP, and Andrew Rug, a senior at Georgetown and member of SMP.
The event was named "Choosing a New America: Human Rights and the Presidential Elections" and was sponsored by GW's chapter of Amnesty International. Debaters spent a lot of time discussing human rights issues, such as Guantanamo Bay, abortion, same-sex marriages and human rights violations in China.
Both the CDs and the SMPs agreed that the next president should make it a priority to close Guantanamo Bay. The student leaders disagreed on how to deal with the prisoners, however.
"We all know that Obama's mantra in this election has been 'Yes We Can,' but when it comes down to reconciling Guantanamo with human rights and our own due process rights, I think that the answer is very clear: No We Can't," Ingoglia said.
Wagner rebutted by saying that prisoners should be considered enemy combatants and should be treated as such in order to protect our security.
CD and SMP representatives repeatedly said that McCain and Obama agree that same-sex marriage and civil unions are a states' rights issue, not a federal issue. Both groups also said that the United States should work with China despite the country's numerous human rights violations.
"McCain specifically advocates a League of Democracies around the world that can engage in multilateral negotiations and hold China accountable to current treaties and to sign additional treaties," Rug said.
Ingoglia endorsed Obama's plan to engage pro-life and pro-choice advocates in collaborating to lower the rate of abortions, such as promoting availability of contraceptives.
"Obama and Biden have the pedigree and the experience to real effervescent change on a global scale," he said.
"Abortion is a human rights issue because life is a human rights issue," Wagner said.
Sesno said that debate was a novel idea because of the topics it covered and schools that were involved.
"The debate linked human rights issues so that they could be defined and also related to American values," Sesno said.
Tyler Logan, a GW senior and vice president of the university's chapter of Amnesty International, said the event was a great success.
"The debate was an evolution of ideas," Logan said. "We felt that the idea of a collegiate debate was new and allows bright minds with unique perspectives to come together and to discuss human rights issues."