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Though the origin of the direct political debate is often traced back to an epic series of clashes between Abe Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, who in 1858 were running against one another for an Illinois senate seat, the first presidential debate actually occurred much later. In 1956 Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson challenged President Dwight Eisenhower to a televised debate, however the eventual confrontation wouldn’t be between the candidates themselves but two of their surrogates, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith. They met on CBS’s Face the Nation (the first female guests in the show’s history) just two days ahead of the election to discuss foreign policy, and the debate got heated. By the end of it, Roosevelt was visibly upset, refusing to shake hands with Smith. Four years later in 1960, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy debated one another four times on live TV. Among other things, these debates helped to cement the two party system in America, with Nixon and Kennedy being presented as the only choices that really mattered, despite the fact that some states had as many as 20 presidential candidates on that year’s ballot to choose from. In order to hold the televised debate, a network rule demanding equal time be offered to all candidates had to be suspended, since only the Democratic and Republican candidates would be appearing. The 1964 elections were held without debates, with the concept not returning again until 1976, as both Lyndon B. Johnson and Nixon refused to debate their opponents. However by 1987 they had become seen as such an important part of the democratic process that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was created with both Democratic and Republican support to establish the rules of the format. Presidential debates are now widely understood to be a fundamental fixture of American democracy, with the CPD offering support to other countries interested in setting up their own local versions. #Politics #Debate #PresidentialDebate #History #Perspective #Election2020

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Posted: October 13th, 2020

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By Mary Nolin and William (Bo) Dean

With the COVID 19 pandemic forcing many adult education centers to pivot to virtual learning platforms, many teachers needed to find creative ways to engage and connect with their students. William ‘Bo’ Dean, an English as a Second Language (ESOL) instructor at Salem Adult Education, had the idea of mailing books from the Connections program to his students to teach English and issues around the environment through children’s literature.

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