On August 13, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that CNN's Candy Crowley will moderate the second presidential debate on October 16.
Three high school students -- Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel, and Elena Tsemberis -- started a campaign on Change.org earlier this summer asking the Commission to select a female moderator, after learning in their high school civics class at Montclair High School that a woman has not moderated a U.S. general election presidential debate since 1992.
“What a huge victory for women, for equal representation, and for the more than 180,000 people who stood with us and demanded a female presidential debate moderator,” said Sammi Siegel. “We are thrilled that the Commission on Presidential Debates is ending their 20-year drought on women moderators. It is long past due to have a woman on the same stage as the men running for president.”
In addition to their first petition to the Commission on Presidential Debates (http://www.change.org/debate), the three girls also launched a petition to the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns (http://www.change.org/petitions/obama-and-romney-support-the-call-for-a-woman-to-moderate-a-presidential-debate) which attracted support online and offline, including from Carole Simpson, the last woman to moderate a presidential debate in 1992. In addition, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm also expressed support.
“Through this campaign, millions of Americans learned that two decades passed without a woman moderating a U.S. presidential debate,” said Emma Axelrod. “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.”
“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,” said Elena Tsemberis. “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.”
When we learned that it's been two decades since a presidential debate was moderated by a woman, we -- three high school students from New Jersey -- decided to take action.
More than 115,000 people have signed our petition calling on the Commission on Presidential Debates to name a woman as a moderator for one of the three U.S. presidential debates to take place this Fall. Now we need to show the Romney and Obama campaigns just how important this campaign is, since both campaigns also have a say in who gets to moderate the debates.
Women and men will never be truly equal in our country until they’re one and the same in positions of power and both visible in politics. There is no reason why a woman shouldn’t have a chance to show what she’s capable of by moderating debates in the upcoming election.
This is important to each of us, for different reasons. Here's what we think, and we hope you'll join the campaign and sign our petition.
I have seen women being judged more on appearance than achievement first hand during my summer camp experience spending three weeks at Girls Leadership Institute. Most of the girls I met had at some point been through a depression, had anxiety, or had a difficult situation at home. Many of the friends I made there were marked with scars from self-harm, or were victims of bullying or sexual harassment. It was inspiring to hear their stories. Many American girls suffer from peer pressure, bullying, or harassment.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure for teenage girls to fit in, as was reflected in the girls at GLI. Many of them were suffering with their weight and/or appearance, and it was almost impossible for any of the girls there to be happy with who they were and what they looked like. My experience at GLI inspired me to make a difference.
I also noticed a lack of women in higher levels of academics. Women are often not encouraged to participate in advanced educational classes, especially math. My dad is a mathematics professor at a university, and in his entire department of math professors, only four are women.
I also personally noticed a shift in gender representation throughout my time in school. In middle school, all students, both male and female, took the same math classes at the same levels. But in high school, I watched female friends drop out and switch to easier classes. These women are equally as intelligent as their male peers, but are not encouraged to pursue harder math courses, just like women are rarely encouraged to pursue positions like moderator of a presidential debate.
As I advanced into higher leveled classes, I saw less and less female representation. On my high school math league team, there were only three female students out of fifteen, and this year there were no women representing her trigonometry and calculus class. Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Women need role models that participate in advanced academics, and need to be encouraged to achieve amazing things.
I understand the responsibility women have to fight for these rights because of one of the most important women in my world. I was shocked one day to learn that my passive, selfless grandmother used to stand up and shout “enough is enough” at the front lines of rallies for the passing of the ERA. I’d seen my grandmother happily bow her head and go along with anything anyone asked of her, without ever bringing her own opinions or desires into consideration. I had never heard her grandmother ask for, let alone demand, anything in her life. It turns out she once had made a demand, a demand that had never been answered. Even though the ERA was never passed, it’s not too late to show the world that women and men have an equal standing in our country. Rather than show it through legislature, we can show it through action.
Thank you for supporting this campaign. Together we can bring both candidates for President together around this issue, and for the first time in two decades make sure that a woman is a moderator during a U.S. presidential debate.