The following entry was written by Trevor Savage, class of 2013.
With graduation coming up at the end of this semester, I’ve been reflecting on the most memorable class I took during my four years at Emerson. Without a doubt, my favorite course was Road to the White House, which was taught by Emerson’s Journalist-in-Residence, Carole Simpson. Carole was the first African-American moderator for a presidential debate (Clinton vs. Bush vs. Perot), and was also the first female anchor for a primetime news program. I took the course in the spring of 2012, just as the Republican Primaries began in earnest. Over the course of the semester, we analyzed the press’s role in covering presidential races, researched and analyzed changes in campaign funding as a result of Citizens United, and wrote a class blog on such events as the 2012 State of the Union and Republican Primary debates, and discussed issues including immigration, tax reform, and immigration.
One of the best experiences I had during the semester was getting the chance to cover one of President Obama’s first re-election rallies. It was in South Portland, Maine, so I began researching the best way to get press credentials in the weeks leading up to it. I contacted the Maine Democratic Party and spoke with its Communications Director, who, luckily for me, is an Emerson alum! She hooked me up with Press Passes, and when I showed up I had a spot directly between Maine’s CBS and NBC affiliates on the Press Podium. It was a prime spot to film the President’s speech, and I was also able to interview some state officials afterward.
I’ll never forget when Carole invited us to her house to watch one of the Primary Debates. We ordered pizza, and watched as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum debated live from Arizona. It was a very eye-opening experience; being able to hear a former debate moderator critique and comment on the current moderator’s questions and technique. At times Carole found some of the questions inappropriate, while at other times she said the questions were not tough enough (all the while lamenting the fact that the candidates were not being constrained to the time limits!)
I truly felt like was the kind of course I could only take at Emerson. Even though presidential politics may be covered at other colleges and universities, I had the rare and exciting opportunity at Emerson to study under an industry legend. Her unique insights and professional expertise made this the most enlightening class I’ve taken in college. I would wholeheartedly recommend Road to the White House for Political Communication and Journalism students – or any student looking to gain awareness of the political climate in our country. My tip? This class is best enjoyed during an election year. It’s worth the wait!