A Night To Remember: My Experience at the November Democratic Presidential Debate

December 5, 2019
Perri Schwartz

Sandy Springs, Georgia, United States

Class of 2021

Read more from this author →

For a long time, I have been an activist committed to what I believe in. During the 2016 Presidential Election, I stood up to our country’s beliefs and values and held true to my activist beliefs. I was scared that we were going to elect a President that turned our political climate upside down. I was stunned to see the results when I woke up the next morning. Although I was disappointed, I never gave up after that election and continued to fight for what I believe in, what I believed all Americans deserve.

Fast forward to 2019, our country is divided and in rough shape. As we get ready for our next presidential election in less than a year, I feel ready but also unsettled. It has been hard for me to pick a candidate I agree with because there are SO many in this election.

On November 20, 2019, I had the special privilege and honor to attend the 5th Democratic Presidential Primary Debate of the 2020 election held in Atlanta, Georgia. Hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, the debate was moderated by an all-female panel.

The debate was held at Tyler Perry Studios in Southwest Atlanta. When I pulled up to the venue, there were two food trucks and a lounge. The lounge was open for everyone, and it had a giant NBC logo, NBC logo pillows, an “election confessions” station (which was where you could submit confessions about the upcoming election), as well as a debate step and repeat. We didn’t have much time before we went inside, so I had to do everything quickly. 

The debate pre-show started at 8 pm, an hour before the actual debate itself, but was not televised. The speakers at the pre-show included Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta's Congressman John Lewis, Fair Fight Action founder and former candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams, and the head of the Democratic Party of Georgia Nikema Williams. The National Anthem was sung by gospel singer Tasha Cobbs, who is native to Georgia.

After the pre-show, the debate and its broadcasting began. To respect the candidates and moderators, we could not have our phones out and we had to be fully silent. Each candidate had 1 minute and 15 seconds to speak, and 30 seconds to respond if need be. There were 3 commercial breaks during the debate. 

The issues discussed at the debate included: Climate change, healthcare (particularly medicare for all), foreign policy, criminal justice, and many more.

The lineup included 10 Democratic Candidates running for president: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Businessman Andrew Yang, and Businessman and Democratic party mega-donor Tom Steyer. 

My favorite candidate was Cory Booker because he appeared passionate about what he was speaking about and showed an interest in putting people before his party. One of my favorite moments of the debate was Cory Booker’s closing statements, which inspired me. Booker talked about black history, as well as the right to vote. He brought up the issue of Congressman John Lewis’s (D-GA) fight for equality among African Americans during the civil rights movement, and voter suppression against black voters in America, particularly Georgia. In addition, he mentioned last year’s fight for Governor of Georgia, in which a black woman named Stacey Abrams ran, but lost. A few weeks before the election, her opponent, who at the time was GA’s Secretary of State, held up voter cards of about 53,000 people, who were mostly people of color. 

Getting into the debate was (and is) extremely difficult. The ticketing is usually controlled by the party and available tickets are limited, tickets are then distributed to the campaigns, where they are distributed to supporters. 

This was a night to remember, and a night I will never forget. I am very privileged to have attended this debate in person, and could not be more grateful for the experience I had. This experience helped me improve my activism in a way that is nonpartisan, and the questions asked during the debate also helped me with my future career as a journalist.

Perri Schwartz is a BBG from B’yachad BBG #2495 in Greater Atlanta Region #55. She has photographic memory, loves to fight for what she belives in, and hopes to be a professional journalist.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

Explore More Stories

Get The Shofar blasted to your inbox