The head of the university's effort to plan a debate says the school is proud of its record as a debate host, believes that will help its bid, but isn't overly promoting that or other factors. He says the school is playing it low key and letting the "facts speak for themselves."
"I would say our strongest appeal to the commission would be that we have served as a debate site several times before, but in reality we aren't really touting that or anything else about what we have to offer," said Steve Givens, vice chancellor for public affairs and chairman of the university's debate steering committee.
"Our facilities aren't as large as one would find at a large university but they seem to be just the right size for a nationally-televised debate, a media event," he said. "This is, after all, a TV event and not an event for tens of thousands of spectators, like a basketball game."
Another plus for Washington University is its geographic location, said Givens.
THE NEWCOMER: Women of the Storm in concert with Dillard University, Loyola University, Tulane University and Xavier University, New Orleans, La.
Perhaps the most unique applicant is this five-party partnership of four universities and an incorporated group of women dedicated to bringing post-Katrina New Orleans back to life. The members of the Women of the Storm believe they can get help in their task by keeping what happened to their city front and center in the American public's consciousness. They also believe having their city as a debate cite would force presidential contenders to address urban problems around the country.
"The Women of the Storm is a non-profit, non-political group of diverse women from metropolitan NO and south Louisiana, and our mission has been to invite and encourage members of Congress and national leaders to visit NO to see first-hand the challenges which we face," said Anne Milling, a founder of the group.
"Our contention is that no photo nor TV clip can adequately capture the magnitude of the destruction here," Milling said. "One must see it block by block, mile by mile."
So far, 57 U.S. senators and 132 House members have visited New Orleans, she said, adding that with "each visitor, we feel we gain an advocate for the needs of our area."
Keeping the focus on New Orleans
Asked why the group, and its four university partners, view a debate as something that would further the cause of keeping attenion on New Orleans, Milling replied: "As you well know, the country moves on to the next crisis du jour, but a debate would return the focus on New Orelans and remind the country that we're not totally whole just yet."
"In addition, the four diverse universities partnering with us had such extensive damage that none could host this on their campus," but they are trying to send a message that New Orleans needs some more help getting back on its feet, she said. A debate would be held at the Morial Convention Center in downtown.
"If we were fortunate to be selected, it would beam a message globally that our universities are up and educating and that our hotels, restaurants and historic New Orleans are ready for business," she said. "We need to get the word out to conventions, corporations and individuals that we're a perfect spot to visit."
Milling said that New Orleans would be perfect for a discussion not only of problems confronting New Orleans but issues facing cities around country.
"With Katrina, the ills of urban America were exposed, ills that no one wanted to address and frequently would be swept under the rug," she said. "If New Orleans were selected, we feel we are the perfect backdrop for realistic dialogue on domestic issues.
"The presidential contenders must address such issues as emergency preparedness, disaster relief, housing, education, etc., and what an ideal venue to unfold one's platform and to look forward," she said.