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Foundation Hopes To Boost Hartford’s Chances To Host 2020 Presidential Debate

Niels van Eck
Creative Commons
On October 6th, 1996, the Bushnell hosted the first presidential debate between President Bill Clinton and Republican challenger Bob Dole.

Hartford is on a short list of cities being considered for one of the four presidential debates in 2020. To help Hartford's chances, The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has pledged one million dollars to the Debate 2020 Local Organizing Committee if the city is selected.

“We think this is a unique opportunity,” said the Jay Williams, President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. “With the eyes of the nation, and beyond the nation trained on Hartford, Connecticut to showcase the work the foundation has been doing with respect to economic opportunity and inclusion, with respect to civil discourse, dialogue, voter education and engagement, the Hartford Foundation we believe has a unique opportunity to help elevate that discussion.”

Williams said the funds will serve a number of purposes.

“A portion of the money will go to cover the costs of Hartford hosting the debate itself, all the logistics,” said Williams. “However a significant portion of the money will also be dedicated to community-wide facilitated forums on election topics, and paid priority internships for students and others who otherwise may not have a chance to participate in all of the activities leading up to the debate.”

Williams said the money will also pay for the distribution of free civics educational materials in both English and Spanish for teachers in the Greater Hartford area.

The last time Hartford hosted a presidential debate was in 1996, when Republican challenger Bob Dole squared off against then President Bill Clinton. Jay Williams said not only would hosting a presidential debate bring an economic boost to the city, it would also bring other important issues to a national platform.

“It will be an opportunity to showcase the work that is going on in Hartford,” said Williams. “You can imagine that some of the challenges that the region is facing aren’t unique to Hartford. So the fact that a community foundation is leading the way to help elevate this dialogue and discussion is also a unique opportunity. I think it also provides an opportunity to attract new investment and new partners to Hartford and the region.”

Next month, the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates will decide which of the six finalist cities will host an event. The debates will take place in October 2020.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is an underwriter on Connecticut Public Radio.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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