Students' mock debate was uniquely presidential

Speech and Debate team members Edgar Moreno (left) and Devon Wemple share the Ethington Theatre stage Wednesday afternoon for a mock presidential debate.

Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau

Donald Trump and Joe Biden squared off in a debate on Grand Canyon University’s campus Wednesday afternoon.

This time, viewers were smarter for having listened to it. The mock presidential debate by GCU Speech and Debate team members was also, well, more presidential.

Edgar Moreno offered the positions of Donald Trump.

Edgar Moreno (playing Trump, who at the same time was just a few miles away on a campaign visit to Goodyear), and Devon Wemple (playing Biden) debated at Ethington Theatre without interruptions or deeply personal insults. Yet each was sharp in laying out his ideas in well-researched imitations of the candidates.

Wemple played a more articulate version of Biden, while Moreno played a more civil Trump. This was no “Saturday Night Live” skit.

The mock debate was held to showcase each candidate’s positions on issues before Tuesday’s elections to an in-person crowd that was scattered for physical distancing and more than 50 on a live feed.

Wemple quickly fired his sharpest attack, on Trump’s response to COVID-19, saying that the president knew the virus was bad and didn’t let the American people know.

“Under this president, we’ve become weaker, sicker, poorer,” he said.

Moreno countered that he didn’t want to panic the American people and that he gave millions in relief to Americans and front-line health care workers. He touted his record of keeping the economy strong by decreasing the number of Americans on food stamps and increasing exports in his tenure.

Devon Wemple (left) makes a point while playing Joe Biden.

“I’m fighting for you, the individual,” he said.

They each borrowed from their candidate’s style if not signature lines.

“Your plan is a joke, Joe,” Moreno said on health care.

“Other countries look at us and laugh at us. We are a laughingstock,” Wemple said of Trump’s foreign policy.

Moreno did go off script in his only nod to Trump interruptions to make a point about Biden’s term as vice president, before moderator and Director of Forensics Michael Dvorak jumped in to say he didn’t have the floor.

Wemple injected a few of Biden’s “Oh, please” asides and cackles while Moreno was speaking.

“We were able to have a little of the mannerisms play out as you saw with the minor things, but they demonstrated good civility,” Dvorak said.

GCU Director of Forensics Michael Dvorak (center) introduces Edgar Moreno (left) and Devon Wemple in Ethington Theatre.

“I think they did very, very well. In order to do the research necessary, (it) meant a massive amount of time. They had to fully immerse themselves in election coverage from both perspectives. The ability of them to understand both sides allowed them to create answers that were amenable to the audience and easier to understand.”

The reason the GCU Multicultural, Diversity and Inclusion Office wanted to host the debate, part of its Un1ty One Week, was to start a conversation and for all sides to be heard, said Director Donald Glenn, whose office helped create 10 questions that neither Moreno nor Wemple saw before the event.

“Their responses are what stood out to me,” Glenn said. “The level of research that they had to cover is just incredible, and the responses were so on point and relevant.”

The “candidates” even agreed on a topic, LBGTQ rights, but it led to Wemple’s accusation of his opponent’s support for white supremacists. They even agreed on contraceptives, but it led to an attack on his opponent's position on abortion: “A life is a life,” Moreno said.

Channeling Biden's oft-quoted line after a disagreement on the recent Supreme Court nomination, Wemple said: “You can question a man’s judgment, but you can’t question his motives.”

And Moreno captured Trump's economic message in his closing remarks: “I’ve boosted your jobs and lowered unemployment. Overall, prior to the pandemic, I have boosted the economy tremendously.”

One saving grace: There were no talking heads to analyze it afterward other than Dvorak, who said the only judges these Speech and Debate members face are students who vote on Tuesday.

To see the full debate:

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


Remaining Un1ty One Week events:

  • Thursday: Cooking and Culture show, 6-7 p.m., Canyon Field. Students will share their cultural attire through video, and they will show how to make an international dish with a finished product onsite to try.
  • Friday: This worship night will feature a parade of nations from 5-6:30 p.m. on the Quad.


Related Speech and Debate news:

  • In the first tournament of the year, held virtually by Kansas Wesleyan University, Jess Kennedy took second place in informative speaking. At the second virtual tournament held by Crossman University, Kennedy took sixth place in extemporaneous speaking, and Lauren Baker took third place in poetry.


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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

(Moses addressed Israel, reminding them of God's deliverance of them from Egypt, and His commands given to them:) "You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out (from bondage and delivered you.). The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear." (Deuteronomy 7:19)

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