Friday, September 26, 2008: historically, a new day for Mississippi

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s Friday night, September 26, 2008 and roughly 15 minutes before the ‘great debate’— the first 2008 presidential debate between candidates Sens. Barack Obama (D) of Illinois and John McCain (R) of Arizona.

Throughout the City of Oxford, the State of Mississippi and the nation, Watch Parties are being held as the national and some local media broadcast live coverage of the debate from the Gertrude Ford Center on the University of Mississippi (UM) campus – the same once all-white campus which 46 years ago refused student admission to James Meredith, an African American.

Today, Meredith is a proud alumnus. A statue of him stands tall on UM’s campus. Meredith’s family was present earlier today to hold a press conference at the statue regarding the historical significance of his perseverance in gaining admission and this evening’s first presidential debate.

Now, just minutes away, Obama, the first African American presidential nominee of a major political party and McCain, a former prison of war, will be heard from this same campus and from the State of Mississippi – a state once described by The Civil Rights Movement’s leading icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 as “a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression,” in his famous “I Have Dream” speech.

The second part to King’s statement was that Mississippi “will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” Is tonight’s debate a part of that transformation?

One can certainly say that it is great public relations for UM, Oxford and the State of Mississippi. Oxford has been “sweltering” with visitors since the official announcement of the event. According to tourism officials, the economy of City of Oxford has been experiencing a boost for months as major broadcast technicians and other entities “having been coming in-and-out” preparing for tonight’s debate.

“I’ve never seen this many people in Oxford before in my life,” remarked a custodian in the restroom of The Overby Center for Journalism.

A local police officer was asked: Roughly, how many additional people are in Oxford as a result of this debate? Sounding overwhelmed by the influx of people, he simply replied: “A lot!”

Numerous debate activities and coverage occurred today and throughout the week that have had the nation’s eyes on Mississippi. It is no doubt that after the 90 minute debate, there will be varied reaction as to which candidate is the winner.

Regardless of which candidate is deemed the winner of the debate, one can safely say that UM, the City of Oxford and the State of Mississippi gained the victory!

Click below for debate activity scenes as photographed by Journalism students of Jackson State University Department of Mass Communications — the only credentialed HBCU student journalists filing media content for several professional media organizations.

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