Large men in suits

Maggie Seppi

By: Maggie Seppi, Assistant News Editor

I would compare it to Christmas at age 6, to give you perspective, but I’m nearly certain those two experiences can’t be equated. No, I’m certain they cannot. I nearly cried in excitement when I first walked into the theater. I have never even come close to crying on Christmas.

It’s true, the waterworks may have been threatening only because I had not stopped moving since 8 a.m., and the idea of sitting in the same chair for two hours seemed like the most wonderful thing I could do. Regardless, looking back, it was pure excitement. The purest form and the most of it I’ve felt in a long time.

I walked in, and I knew almost no one, but I felt like I should have known everyone. Ever had that feeling? It’s intimidating, yet mesmerizing. For a period of time, I sat in my chair and merely listened to the conversations around me.

There was one large man in a suit — mind you, all of the men were fairly large and in suits, it seemed — who was discussing with a friend how he was making the trek back to Tallahassee in the morning for a judiciary meeting.

Now, that’s a reasonable conversation — the funny part came when he said: “But I’m going to have my aide drive me back, I’m too old for this back-and-forth.”

After a few brief moments of considering who this man could be, my friend spotted Mayor Alvin Brown. I attempted to take a creepy paparazzi picture from afar, before shoving my way to the front to take a real photograph with him. This was cool in a multitude of ways. I was starstruck, and it was the first time I’d been that close to someone “famous” who wasn’t a member of a band. Oh, and he was one of the few I actually recognized.

Following the encounter with the mayor, I found my way back to my seat and remained there until the beginning of the debate. You may think this beginning is uneventful, but I promise you I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, both literally and figuratively.

There were people circulating around me. There was meeting and greeting among the many Republican stakeholders; it was bright and lively. The excitement was palpable. It did not matter that the attendees were voting for different candidates. It seemed only to matter that they were there, together, to literally watch history being made. It was evident they were as aware as the media of the importance of this debate.

As everyone began to settle, UNF President John Delaney made a quick speech, as well as a few others whom I fairly easily dismissed, only because of the impending debate.

And then it started.

The hype man told us to start clapping, and Wolf Blitzer introduced the candidates. It was surreal. I have watched debates prior to this, but the difference in experience is nearly inexplicable.

The room cheered for each of them, but the applause for Mitt Romney was noticeably louder, and many more cheers accompanied it. The heightened excitement for Romney remained throughout the debate.

Really, from there, I remained focused on what they discussed. I have always had an interest in politics, but it is far easier to be interested when you watch a debate in person. I felt, in order to fulfill the opportunity, that I should remain attentive. Although, I did get sidetracked when I noticed President Delaney’s parents were sitting directly in front of me, and by distracted, I mean I stared at the back of their heads and considered their place in society.

I also found myself closely watching the cameraman running up and down the aisles. I paid even more attention to the man who remained squatted behind him rolling and unrolling the cord attached to the camera. His back must have hurt, but he did a great job of not tripping up the camera man.

I wish I could find noncliche terms to describe the experience, but the more I try to do so, the more I realize how impossible it is.

I watched history being made. I listened to them speak without a rival news source misconstruing every word they spoke. I watched their body movements. I watched their facial expressions. I watched it all unfiltered. It was wonderful, eye-opening and unforgettable. I only wish more students could have had this opportunity. We’re looked upon as an apathetic generation, as far as politics go, but if more students could watch these debates firsthand, the apathy would effortlessly be dissolved.

Email Maggie Seppi at [email protected]