by Asma Neblett

If you’re ready to vote on November 6th as a stone-cold liberal, libertarian, moderate, Independent, or remain neutral on party affiliations, prepare yourself for this heated political season. The Republicans and Democrats have already executed their conventions and are continuing to campaign, with much to be discussed.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney began and ended the GOP (Grand Old Party) convention in Tampa, Florida on September 6th with a bevy of politicians in support of the GOP event. Notable guest speakers endorsing the campaign message to “Believe in America” under his hopeful leadership took center stage. Former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, and 2008 Republican nominee and Arizona state senator, John McCain, laid out the foundation for why Romney should be president.

The heated topic of foreign policy was raised, questioning President Obama’s role in the volatile situations in Syria and Northern Africa. McCain challenged Obama’s lacking leadership and disappointing maintenance in regards to America’s role internationally, in front of the glittering crowd: “…the lonely voices of dissent in Syria and Iran and elsewhere, who feel forgotten in their darkness, and sadly for us as well, our president is not being true to our values.” The comment comes at an interesting time, considering the criticism from both Republicans and Democrats to stay out of affairs other than our own. However, Romney took a lot of heat for not mentioning Afghanistan and the troops in his speech, especially after he claimed, “You talk about things you think are important.”

The defining moment of the convention rested in the banter of Academy-Award winner and famed ‘Dirty Harry’ actor, guest speaker Clint Eastwood. Appearing on stage at the ripe old age of 82, Eastwood was accompanied by an empty chair, symbolizing President Obama’s vacant seat. What was supposed to be interesting became odd when Eastwood began a staggered speech, spending most of his twelve minutes on stage talking to a chair. Yes, an inanimate object.

On the other side of the political-pond, the Democratic convention ensued in Charlotte, North Carolina, with many more celebrities taking the stage to endorse President Obama’s campaign message “Forward.” Former Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria, actresses Kerry Washington and Scarlett Johansson, First Lady Michelle Obama, and former president, Bill Clinton, spoke on behalf of Obama’s reelection campaign. Meanwhile, the president was back home at the White House watching the convention with his daughters, Malia (14) and Sasha (11) and made a surprise appearance at the end of Clinton’s speech.

During her speech, Longoria spoke on behalf of tax-cuts and to whom they’re most crucial for: the middle class. Proudly reflecting on her youth prior to her days on Wisteria Lane, Longoria talked about the young girl who once “worked at Wendy’s [and] needed a tax-break,” compared to the seven-figure salary of the woman she is today.

The First Lady graced the convention and also made headlines for her fashionable attire and crucial points addressed, which touched on healthcare, education, and the flourishing love that still exists between her and the President through these tough four years.

Michelle Obama reminded viewers that our first couple once stood in the same position as many of us, experiencing hardships such as financial instability, debt, and the troubling finances of college funding/loans that students deal with nationwide. She admitted that, “when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. We were so young, so in love, and so in debt.” She furthered by explaining, “That’s why Barack has fought so hard to increase student aid and keep interest rates down, because he wants every young person to fulfill their promise and be able to attend college without a mountain of debt.” For prospective, current, and graduated college students, this remains an issue of utmost importance.

Ever since Republican senator Todd Akin’s controversial “legitimate rape” comments, many people (and women especially) have felt differently and negatively towards the Republican Party’s stance on female healthcare. The First Lady inserted a comment that the assertion of female choice on their medical issues was not forgotten and certainly primary. “He [President Obama] believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care. That’s what my husband stands for.” She spoke eloquently on behalf of her husband, and was praised for her well-delivered speech.

With the Conventions behind them, both candidates have hit the campaign trail and will be travelling to key swing states.  There will be three debates before the election as well, the first being held on October 3rd.

As college students, it is important to stay aware of the decisions being made that will influence our future. November 6th is Election Day, so your deadlines to register to vote and apply for an absentee ballot are fast approaching. If you are interested in voting and have not registered, the Political Awareness Club hosts a table from 11-3 p.m. on Thursdays in front of The View in Aquinas. There are registration forms and absentee ballot applications available, plus club sign-ups if you have an interest in joining. Don’t neglect to exercise your right to vote!