Opinion: John McCain, Barack Obama to appear together at Columbia University


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John McCain and Barack Obama are to appear on stage together at Columbia University in New York next Thursday -- Sept. 11 -- the president of the university announced this afternoon.

It will be the candidates’ second joint appearance since they won enough votes in the primaries to claim their parties’ nominations.


Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger shared the news with students in a e-mail message Wednesday, the first day of school. ServiceNation, the nonpartisan community service coalition sponsering the forum, said in a news release that the candidates ‘will discuss in-depth their views on service and civic engagement in the post-9/11, post-Katrina world.’

Like last month’s Saddleback Church forum, the Columbia event will not be a debate. In this case, Obama and McCain will give separate speeches about public service. It will be moderated by Time magazine editor Richard Stengel and PBS ‘News Hour’ anchor Judy Woodruff. New York Gov. David Paterson is also scheduled to appear.

Bollinger wrote excitedly about the scheduling coup in his e-mail to students.

‘While it will not be a presidential debate, but rather two individual conversations, this nonpartisan Forum is one of only a few times that John McCain and Barack Obama are scheduled to appear on the same stage during the general election campaign,’ he said.

The intrepid reporters at the Columbia Spectator have more on the story here.

Columbia -- and Bollinger -- are no strangers to world-famous politicians. The president of the university made headlines in 2007 when he invited controversial Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to appear at a forum on campus.

Both presidential candidates have ties to Columbia.

Obama graduated from Columbia in 1983, but next Thursday will be his first appearance at his alma mater since he began his run for president.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, graduated from Columbia in 2007.

McCain last appeared at the school in 2006, when he spoke at its graduation ceremony. He was heckled by many attendees for his support of the war in Iraq.

-- Kate Linthicum