October 22nd, 2012 (InsideCostaRica.com) – Today’s US presidential debate is an exciting and historic day for both citizens of the United States, as well as those around the globe.
Preparations have begun since many days ago, and students, faculty members and the Lynn University community in general in Boca Raton, Florida, are most eager of all, as the debate will be held at this small, yet dazzling university rich in culture, innovation and education.
Inside Costa Rica was able to speak with Jennifer Murillo, a 19-year-old “Tica” residing and studying Multimedia Journalism at Lynn University. Jennifer, who graduated from the Lincoln School in San Jose, Costa Rica, is one of the primary journalists for University’s YouTube channel, and will be covering tonight’s debates from the university’s social media lounge. She is also a student storyteller, and one of the volunteer students to update information on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, Tumblr, YouTube and others.
“This is a wonderful experience because not only are we able to tell the story of the debate, but also a great part of the story of this University. Classes here are very interesting, as we are able to learn that journalism is not just TV and radio reporting, but also a wide variety of online media,” she said.
As a Costa Rican citizen residing in the United States, Jennifer cannot vote, and although she has not decided on which candidate she prefers just yet, she is quite eager to watch tonight’s debate and gather as much information as possible, and then perhaps, decide on her favorite candidate.
“I am very interested in this last debate, and maybe once I see it, I will be more inclined towards one or the other of the candidates. I would like to see the discussion on foreign policy, how it will affect not only Costa Rica, but also Europe, the Middle East…I would like to see each of the candidate’s … This is very important because the United States has a great sphere of influence in the whole world,” she said.
When asked about the past two debates, Jennifer said, “I especially liked the town hall debate, it was nice to see the candidates in a setting in which they weren’t attached to a script, and citizens were able to talk about subjects that they thought were important. It was actually my favorite debate, people were able to see how each candidate interacts with the public, and I think a great part of a candidate’s career is interacting with the citizens. They talked about the economy, investment in education, tax cuts, what is going to happen to US troops in other countries…it was very interesting.”
The young journalist also mentioned that the format of this debate would be very similar to that of the vice-president debate format. “They will have a table, in which each candidate will be sitting, facing the audience, and there will be a moderator,” she said.
Murillo says she hopes these debates will be ‘connected’ with the public. She would like to hear about the trade deficit (with China, for example) and gun control policies.
“There are people in this country (the U.S.) that possess the type of weapons that are used in the military (…) I want to know how the candidates plan on addressing this issue.”
Though both countries are democracies, political processes are quite different in the United States and in Costa Rica.
According to Jennifer, in Costa Rica, there is more liberty to choose a party that caters to the voters’ interest. “In the United States, instead, people generally ‘join’ a party. They are either Republican or Democrat, and sometimes they may not even like certain things about the candidate himself, but they still follow the party. In Costa Rica there are more options, there is more variety and people don’t tend to follow a party so much as a candidate, despite the fact that for the most part, the election is still between two parties,” she added.
She is also quite concerned about many recent “PAC” ads in the United States -independent associations that run ads for candidates, which, according to her, do not always provide accurate information.
In Costa Rica, the law does not allow for consecutive reelection, as in the United States. Murillo says she prefers the U.S. system in this regard, as it encourages a President to do his best during his first term.
“If a candidate only has the possibility of one term, they will work towards meeting short term goals, and do not worry about what happens afterwards. For example, Obama now has the opportunity to finish what he’s begun. In Costa Rica, instead, new candidates enter with the purpose of gaining votes…”.
Jennifer will be working from the social media lounge at Lynn University during tonight’s debates, where all of the social media heavyweights including Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and more will have a heavy presence.
The first time social media played a significant role in presidential debates was in 2008. The proliferation of social media has continued since then.
“People now can not only see and follow the information, but they can also comment, discuss and share ideas. For example, you can follow Obama and Romney on Twitter, and you will find not only political information, but also information on what they think. It is now a world with instant information, which people can instantly share,” she said.
Leading up to tonight’s debate, there have been many activities at Lynn University, such as BBQ’s, pool parties and debate-themed gatherings, in which students and the community in general can get to know one another and discuss and share ideas.
Murillo says there is a heavy security presence, however, especially the United States Secret Service. “Everything is very well planned, and cars are being parked outside of campus,” she said. A special shuttle service takes people to the university.
That will change though, when the candidates arrive this evening. The university will go into total “lockdown.”
“This means that no one will be able to either enter nor leave the campus. The idea is that both candidates and the public will feel safe,” Murillo said.
Murillo will be graduating in about two and half years, and hopes to continue on to work for a Hispanic media organization in the U.S.
Story and interview by Adriana Torre, Associate Editor, Inside Costa Rica
Editing by Timothy Williams