YouTube Debate Features Penn State Student

This story was written by Amy Flashenberg, Daily Collegian
Schoolwork can be a drag, but for Pennsylvania State University Sarah Lederach (freshman-history), one class assignment got her face on national television Wednesday and on the front page of Thursday's USA Today.

"My question for you all is, if elected, what measures will you take to tackle the national debt and control spending?" she asked a panel of Republican presidential candidates while seated in her leaf-covered backyard in Scottdale via a YouTube video.

An assignment for Lederach's English 030 (Honors English Composition) class required students to submit a video question directed toward the Republican presidential candidates to be considered for one of the 40 questions aired on CNN during the Republican YouTube debate Wednesday night. About 4,927 questions were submitted to YouTube prior to the debate.

"We got the assignment way at the beginning of the semester, and I was nervous about asking a good question because, before I had to start looking into the issues, I had never closely followed the candidates," Lederach said.

Lederach was doing homework Wednesday evening when she got a call from her family telling her that her video was the seventh question asked during the debate, she said.

"I was shocked. I was like, 'what? Are you kidding?' " she said. "I really didn't think I had a chance of my question getting through."

Immediately after her question was aired, Lederach said she logged onto Facebook and found that she had received 60 "friend requests" and dozens of messages on Facebook and YouTube from people nationwide who had seen her video question during the debate.

One student from Ohio State University sent Lederach a message that read: "I'm from Ohio State. Don't fight this. We can be friends."

Because she missed the candidates' live responses to her question, Lederach said she went online to find that the candidates who responded -- Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani -- didn't provide a "clear-cut answer."

"I think they gave a typical debate response," Lederach said. "I don't think they directly answered my question."

Diana Gruendler, lecturer in the English department, assigned the project to Lederach's class, as well as two other sections of the class, to show the students "how writing is so relevant to their functions in everyday life and is so powerful," she said.

"To have an opportunity to actively pursue a question that you can ask directly to a candidate who's running for the presidency is extraordinary," she added.

Although Lederach will not receive extra credit toward her grade in the class, Gruendler said she "gets the fame of being our star and we're all supporting her on that."

"And I think the class deserves a trip to the [Berkey] Creamery on me at least," Gruendler said.
© 2007 Daily Collegian via U-WIRE