Of debates and fall breaks


It is Sunday, and time to take a moment to look to the past week and then ahead.

We all found our dust-covered UCO sweatshirts toward the end of the week as the temperatures dropped to 37 this AM. Just moments ago, it seemed that we were contending with the late summer sizzle at 90 and above. Pumpkins seem to be everywhere now. Most people I meet confess they we ready for our latest extended summer to finally end.

This past week a good chunk of America and many across the globe watched the first 2012 US Presidential debate. It was in 1960 that this televised political forum began when Richard Nixon and John Kennedy stepped in front of the bulky cameras and into out living rooms in black and white. President Kennedy narrowly won that year and many analysts credit his TV performance as contributing to his favorable rating and to his election. In contrast, those who followed the interaction of the two candidates on radio concluded that Nixon had won. Thus was born an entire industry devoted to effectively using TV and other visual media to candidates’ advantage.

Unlike 1960, this year there will be more face-to-face encounters between President Obama and Governor Romney as well as the vice presidential debate this coming week. It is not easy to track the impact and influence of these 90 minute programs, but the consensus is that you can harm your campaign, and hopefully, help it via the impressions one derives from listening and watching both men on the same stage in real time responding, proclaiming and rebutting. We will continue to use this presidential year as a case study in seeking to understand the roots and manifestations of effective leadership.

As a country, we are marking the 11th anniversary of the Afghan war. In the fall of 2001, President George W. Bush, in response to the 9/11 attacks, joined with Afghan tribal leaders known then as the Northern Alliance, to depose the Taliban government of Afghanistan who had offered safe refuge to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Even after force reductions over the past several months, some 68,000 US military personnel remain in Afghanistan along with another 30,000+ troops from NATO and other countries. We are reminded that this conflict is now the longest in our history, with the US mission there essentially concluding by 2014. It has been challenging to accurately identify the current goals of US involvement at this time, and this situation and heated the debate about the next American steps will likely be addressed when the presidential contenders address foreign policy.

We were delighted to learn this week that UCO was named the winner of the voter registration campaign sponsored by Oklahoma Campus Compact. Each institution was judged on the total number of registrations and the percentage increase from last year. UCO competed in the large university category. Bravo to all who assisted in this important act of encouraging citizens to take a step toward broader engagement in the future of our state and region by voting and by encouraging others to do so. A special note of appreciation to the UCO American Democracy Project team who are dedicated to promoting civic engagement by all of us. They are recognized nationally for the quality of their efforts. I urge you to learn more about the valued organization and its mission.

This is Fall Break week at UCO, a time when our faculty and staff will step away from the demands of the schedule on Thursday and Friday. It is an opportunity to take stock of where you are in the demands of this semester, and orient yourself for the success you want to achieve by mid-December. I wish each of you a relaxing few days as we move into the run to the end of the term by mid-December. I know many of you work and that you face project deadlines and a full range of demands. But across the long weekend, I urge you to do at least one activity or project to break the routine, something that will make you smile, and that will make a difference to someone else. Surprise someone. Make someone’s day with words and/or actions, large or small.

May this week hold fresh opportunities and insights for you.

And remember, we believe in you.

My best wishes,

Don Betz