Party Lines

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As vice presidential candidates Richard B. Cheney and Joseph I. Lieberman squared off last week for their first and only scheduled debate, schoolchildren and educators in Danville, Ky., were watching with greater-than-average interest.

Granted, the campaign to lure a debate to Danville had been spearheaded largely by the president of Centre College, which hosted the Oct. 5 showdown. But college officials were quick to say they got key help from K-12 students and their teachers.

With hundreds of letters, drawings, and even a song written for the occasion, young people in the 16,000-person community 35 miles southwest of Lexington bombarded the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates in Washington with entreaties to send some candidates their way.

"What really impressed the commission was how much the community was supporting this," said Diane F. Johnson, a spokeswoman for the college.

In one letter now on Centre College's Web site at, a 1st grader boasted of the town's "beautiful schools." In a more politically savvy appeal, a 7th grader argued that "Danville is a bellwether town in a bellwether state!"

At Danville's Hogsett Elementary School, music teacher Betsy Tipton Grise whipped up a song late last year with the help of a class of 3rd graders. "We Wish You Would Come to Danville," the youngsters sang to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," in an audiotape sent to the commission.

Ms. Grise said the children were "absolutely thrilled to death" when their efforts paid off in a recommendation from the commission, which the two major-party campaigns eventually agreed to accept. "It just shows them that if they pull together, they can really do great things," she said.

—Caroline Hendrie

Vol. 20, Issue 6, Page 8

Published in Print: October 11, 2000, as Party Lines

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