NOTRE DAME, Ind. (WNDU) - The path to the U.S. presidency runs through Notre Dame.
It was announced Friday that the university will host a presidential debate in the fall of 2020.
The Notre Dame debate will be the first in a series of three. The Purcell Pavilion is where the 2020 presidential candidates will square off face to face for the first time.
“The tickets are very limited, and we're very limited in the tickets we have. We haven't determined, though, about distribution of tickets. We'll have to talk about that,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president.
Like a lot of events on campus, tickets will be hard to come by, but perhaps that’s how Notre Dame found itself hosting debate in the first place.
“We host 85,000, 100,000 people probably seven times a year for football games, so we know how to do big events,” Jenkins said at an afternoon news conference.
While Notre Dame has hosted plenty of presidents, dating back to Eisenhower, this will mark the first time it has ever hosted a presidential debate.
“I think our democracy so badly needs a place where we can have serious conversations. Our politics have been taken over by tweets and by slogans,” Jenkins said. “I do feel presidential debates are really a sacred moment in our democracy.”
Jenkins serves on the board of directors of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
A second debate will be held Oct. 15 at the University of Michigan, while a third will take place Oct. 22 at Belmont.
While on the subject of all things presidential, it was also announced Friday that Jenkins has been elected to a fourth five-year term as the president of the university.
From the University of Notre Dame:
For the first time, the University of Notre Dame will host a U.S. presidential debate, a decision announced on Oct. 11 (Friday) by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
The debate at Notre Dame will be the first debate in the 2020 election series. It will take place on Sept. 29, 2020, (Tuesday) in the Purcell Pavilion of the Joyce Center.
“The heart of democracy is addressing significant questions in open, reasoned discussion that will inform voters as they prepare to cast their votes,” said University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., also a member of the CPD board of directors. “Standing apart from the glitz and spin of modern campaigns, the presidential debates are that solemn moment in our national life when candidates are invited to discuss seriously the central issues before us.”
He added, “Notre Dame, along with the South Bend-Mishawaka-Elkhart region, will be in the global spotlight as a debate host. We will work closely with our community partners so that the region is ready to shine for our guests from around the country and the world.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and has sponsored all general election presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988.
Notre Dame has a long history of welcoming sitting presidents, vice presidents and candidates for national office to campus for various speaking engagements and ceremonies. Nine U.S. presidents have been awarded Notre Dame honorary degrees, and six have addressed graduates at the University Commencement Ceremony, the most of any college or university in the country.
The University’s series of sitting presidents began in 1960 when former Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., invited President Dwight Eisenhower to be the first president to deliver a Commencement speech at Notre Dame.
President Jimmy Carter made what many regard as the key foreign policy address of his presidency at Notre Dame’s 1977 Commencement exercises. He returned to Notre Dame on March 4, 2015, to participate in a memorial tribute to Father Hesburgh.
In May 1981, President Ronald Reagan made his first public appearance after the attempt on his life in March of that year. He was also the principal speaker on campus in 1988 at the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service stamp honoring legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. Reagan portrayed Fighting Irish football player George Gipp in the 1940 film “Knute Rockne, All American.”
President George H.W. Bush was the University’s principal Commencement speaker in 1992. Over the years, he appeared on campus five times.
Bush’s son, President George W. Bush, delivered his first presidential commencement address at Notre Dame in May 2001. He returned to campus in October 2017 to help dedicate O’Neill Hall, named for Joseph I. O’Neill III, a longtime friend of the Bushes.
President Barack Obama received his first honorary degree and delivered the principal address at Notre Dame’s 2009 commencement.
Notre Dame also awarded honorary degrees to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Gerald Ford, at special academic convocations, and to John F. Kennedy as a U.S. congressman in 1950.
More recently, Vice President Mike Pence addressed graduates at the 2017 University Commencement Ceremony. A year earlier, then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner received Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, the most prestigious award given to American Catholics.
The debate is expected to draw thousands of regional, national and international media representatives to the area.
More details about the presidential debate at Notre Dame will be available in the weeks and months ahead on debate.nd.edu.