For most of us college students, the 2016 presidential election is a big milestone in our lives. This is the first election that we can cast our vote in, hoping to make our small contribution to changing the world. We want so badly to be excited for the event that we’ve waited our entire lives for, but many college students are actually dreading November 8th. With so much negative stigma against both Trump and Clinton, those of us who aren’t entirely dedicated to one or the other are caught in the middle. Who do we believe? Who is the “cleanest dirty shirt” in the situation? Through all of the chaos of the election, we have lost sight of all positivity, confidence and hope.
The second presidential debate, held at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9th, was expected to be just as hectic as the first. Trump and Clinton continued their routine, quarreling and bantering on while college watch parties and audiences across the county tuned in. While the town hall format of the debate allowed undecided voters to ask the candidates critical questions regarding policy, the debate seemingly did little to sway audience opinions.
Just as citizens prepared to switch the channel on their televisions, a man named Karl Becker took the microphone to ask the final question of the night: “Regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?” Jaws dropped and the town hall spectators applauded. The candidates themselves seemed a bit taken aback by the request. Clinton responded first, sharing her admiration for the “able and devoted” Trump children. Trump accepted the compliment and admitted that Clinton is “a fighter” who “doesn’t quit or give up.”
Both candidates reinstated the fact that they largely disagree with one another on every other topic, but for one minute of the campaign trail, optimism and respect shone through. Trump and Clinton even shook hands at the end, something that did not happen at the beginning of the night. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears. One man, who coincidentally is the father of one of my high school friends, managed to unite two foes. Twitter imploded with comments praising Becker. One humble question sent him into viral stardom.
Within minutes, pop singer Katy Perry tweeted, “Make #karlbecker #1 TT if you have a (heart).” Hashtags emerged, uniting the Twitter world to promote #KarlBecker4President.
Many of those engaged on social media were college students and other millennials. For them, Becker reignited a flame of hope for humanity and the upcoming election. The value of respect was lost among all of the controversial headlines and accusations regarding the candidates. The memes, admirable jokes and tweets of gratitude to Becker forced the nation’s youth to talk about what they value in a potential president. The mere request for the candidates to state what they admire about each other humanized the election on a personal level for so many prospective voters.
On a personal note, I noticed that Becker was very involved in his daughter Darcy's high school career. He would often encourage Darcy to perform to her fullest potential and become an informed citizen. Once, he chaperoned our newspaper field trip to a journalism conference. Becker volunteered to distribute pizza to the hundreds of students at the conference. Afterwards, he helped clean up the event and managed to grab eight extra boxes of pizza for our staff to enjoy on the bus ride home. We all cheered around him yelling, coincidentally, "KARL FOR PRESIDENT! NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES!"
While Karl Becker probably will not run for office in the foreseeable future, he has already left his impact on the country. Maybe now the election doesn’t seem too superficial or frightening, after all. Becker showed us that it’s OK to remain undecided until we are done analyzing policy and can factually determine who is the right personal choice. No matter who we favor, the millennial college kids are here. We are interested and participating. If one small-town man can make an impact on the election, our votes can too.
P.S. Shoutout to Karl Becker for putting our little town of WashMo back on the map. Now we have a hail to fame besides being the home of the first Wal-Mart supercenter and the "Corncob Pipe Capital of the World."
Lead Image Credit: ABC News