Don’t Hit The Mute Button On Progress

After the chaos fueled first presidential debate, many Americans did not know what to expect ahead of last Thursday’s round two faceoff between Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. What we witnessed was an exhausting yet civil and much more productive presidential debate. Phew, what a relief! Some might argue that the key to the debate’s success was not the addition of a mute button but the moderator, Kristen Welker.

Why you might ask?

Kristen Welker is the first black woman to moderate a general election presidential debate since 1992.  Almost a 30-year wait is long enough!  Kristen’s resume is impressive.  She graduated from Harvard University with a history degree in 1998 and has built an impressive career in broadcast journalism since then. Welker has been with NBC News since 2010 and became one of the networks’ White House correspondents in 2011.  During the debate, she was not afraid to ask tough, but fair questions of both candidates and was unquestionably diligent, professional, and poised throughout the night.  In today’s “gotcha” world, her performance was refreshing.  She proved my 4-year-old son wrong who likes to say “boys rule, girls drool.”

Welker’s participation was only preceded by ABC News journalist Carole Simpson.  Simpson became the first African American woman to moderate a presidential debate when she moderated the debate between George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and a third-party independent Ross Perot in Richmond Virginia in 1992.  Interestingly, 1992 was the last time an independent had any success in a general election.  Henry Ross Perot, American business magnate, billionaire, and philanthropist, received 18.9% of the popular vote.  That year and his campaign in 1996 were among the strongest presidential showings by an independent candidate in US history.  While, he did not win any electoral votes, you might say that he was the first to set the stage for a businessman to run a successful campaign for presidency and maybe in some small way lead us to where we are today.

One thing that debate participants, moderators, businessmen and aspiring politicians all have in common in their pursuit of excellence is the preparation and surrounding cast that is part of the process.  When planning for a debate, you must do your research, reading, phone calls, and have a strong team to “weather the storm.”  Much like when doing a financial plan, investments professionals do their prep work – research, due diligence, fact finding, analyzing in order to build an “all weather” plan.  Politicians, journalists or advisors cannot control or predict what is going to happen tomorrow, a month from now or in a year but we can control how much work we do to prepare for any outcome and who is on our team.

As Kristen Welker said on the Today Show, her success as the debate moderator “was a team effort” and we couldn’t agree more.

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