Miami Herald OpEd: A classical guide to debate

Miami Herald: A classical guide to debate

10/13/2014 7:14 PM

When it comes to Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate, viewers should consider tips on how to watch such a political face-off:

A debate is an exercise in the art of persuasion. We can find no better guide than the man who literally wrote the book on persuasion, Aristotle, and his principles of Ethos (credibility), Logos (logic) and Pathos (emotion).

A candidate’s credibility will be a determining factor in a voter’s choice. Credibility has four elements:

▪ Competence: Candidates need to demonstrate they possess the skill set to govern by emphasizing experience, decision-making and leadership.

▪ Trust: People will rarely vote for someone they don’t trust. Not only should each candidate cite unbiased information, but their eye contact, posture, facial expressions and overall demeanor will influence believability.

▪ Charm: The old adage “People buy from whom they like” applies here. Again, it isn’t always what you say, it is how you say it. Each must remain calm and relaxed and draw the audience to them.

▪ Relatability: Any good leader needs to understand those they are leading. The candidate doesn’t need to be all things to all people, but simply show empathy and leave the voter thinking, “He gets me.”

The candidates want to use logic to show their policies are justified by reason. Ideas must pass the “smell test.” Concepts such as cause/effect, problem/solution and need/satisfaction should be applied to policy. Given the limited time frame, the candidates need to make the complex seem simple.

While most people will tell you they use logic to make decisions, more often than not they use logic to justify the decisions they made emotionally. Both candidates will not only try to make a positive emotional connection with the audience but also create a negative emotional association with their opponent.

While these ideas originated in Greece thousands of years ago, the candidate who masters ethos, logos and pathos can win a debate in Florida in 2014.


Palm Beach Post OpEd

Point of View: Anticipation high for Scott-Crist debate

Palm Beach Post 

Posted: 6:14 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014

Point of View: Anticipation high for Scott-Crist debate photo
J. David Armstrong, Jr. is president of Broward College.


When it comes to election time, one state is almost certain to garner national attention.

Once again, Florida is thrust into the spotlight as our gubernatorial race plays out on a national stage. Floridians will cast their ballots to decide who will lead the fourth largest state in the nation.

As president of the host location of the Oct. 15 debate between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, I join with the faculty, staff and students of Broward College in feeling the palpable, even electric, anticipation of this event.

Ever impressive is the stage upon which the debate will sit. Southeast Florida – the combined area of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — is the seventh largest metropolitan statistical area in the nation. With a combined population of more than 5.5 million, it is home to just under 30 percent of all Floridians. An economic engine unto itself, the region competes on a global scale to bring home everything from academic research projects to headquarter operations.

Florida has long been a bellwether for national trends concerning the elderly, health care, politics, foreign policy, immigration and the economy. The state’s great diversity across a variety of sectors, including race, age, income, socio-economic status, nationality and geography, drives it to experience these trends ahead of the rest of the country.

Florida is fortunate to have much in its favor, including an unparalleled quality of life, stunning natural resources, and abundant strategic and logistic assets. As a state, we stand at a crossroads. On Oct. 15 at Broward College’s Davie Campus, we’ll be presented with the platforms and leadership styles of our gubernatorial candidates as each seeks to answer important questions facing our state and nation.

It is an honor and a privilege to showcase Broward College, named one of the top ten community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute, and our bright, diverse student body of more than 68,000 students.

We are fortunate to partner on the debate with Leadership Florida, as well as the Florida Press Association, two organizations that take seriously their role as stewards of democracy.

The contest has captured the nation’s attention – and for good reason. Floridians will choose between two very different leaders with political records and history.

The stakes are high as Florida takes center stage. We’ll learn what matters most to the diverse citizens of this state as the gubernatorial candidates seek to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”


Editor’s note: J. David Armstrong Jr. is president of Broward College.