Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel, and Elena Tsemberis of Montclair High School started a campaign on the political action site Change.org after learning that a woman hadn’t moderated the U.S. presidential debates since 1992. More than 120,000 people signed the petition. With their help, CNN’s Candy Crowley will moderate the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on October 16.
Change.org gives people a nonpartisan forum to bring to light any issue that affects the community at large and to ask people to sign an email petition. Although the results of the petitions are not legally binding, they can be influential in raising public awareness and encouraging their targets to make a change.
After PBS’s Gwen Ifill moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008, the need for more female faces in the debate series for the current election wasn’t immediately obvious. But once the girls’ petition gained momentum, media outlets including TV Guide started picking up the story. In July, the three students appeared on Current TV’s “The War Room” with Jennifer Granholm.
“Through this campaign, millions of Americans learned that two decades passed without a woman moderating a U.S. presidential debate,” said Emma Axelrod in a statement. “We are so proud to have helped educate Americans on this issue, and are extremely happy that women and girls watching the debates this year will see a potential role model up on the stage moderating.”
Broadcast journalist Carole Simpson, who was the last woman to moderate the presidential debates in 1992, backed the petition. New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York representative Carolyn Maloney, New York City councilwoman Christine Quinn, and former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm also showed their support.
Noted Elena Tsemberis, ”Having the support of people like Carole Simpson, Sen. Gillibrand, and Rep. Maloney — powerful women who are heroes to many — underscored for us how important this campaign was to wage. This campaign wasn’t about partisan politics, or liberal or conservative issues. This was about equal representation, regardless of political party. When Candy Crowley takes the stage to moderate the debate between Obama and Romney, it will be a victory for all Americans.”
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