Inside the Debate







The Candidates

Candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden debated over many controversial topics such as COVID-19 relief and plans, climate change, immigration policies, and healthcare for all. NBC television journalist Kristen Welker expertly moderated the event.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plexiglass was initially supposed to separate the two candidates; however, in agreement with his stance against COVID regulations, Trump refused to participate in the debate if the plexiglass remained present, so it was removed. As a result of the candidates speaking out of turn in Cleveland, this final debate incorporated muting the opposing candidate’s microphone when it was not their turn to speak. The debate was divided into six sections on major topics selected by the moderator and announced the week before.

On October 22nd at 8 pm CST, 63 million viewers tuned in to watch the second and final debate. Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s nominee, was well-prepared to talk about the coronavirus, which had killed over 200,000 people at the time of the debate. He also addressed the threat of climate change and proposed that the United States should begin the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy resources. Biden also presented his plan for Bidencare (similar to Obamacare, but with a public option) and discussed taking a stricter approach to fighting COVID-19.

His opponent and the incumbent, Donald Trump, represented the Republican Party. He argued that climate change was not existential, expressed skepticism of Bidencare, and suggested that the United States loosen pandemic-related restrictions. Trump argued that schools and businesses should reopen in order to boost the economy and save jobs. He also announced that the coronavirus vaccine would be available to the public much sooner than health professionals had previously projected.

Without the elegance and poise of moderator Kristen Welker, the debate might have escalated into a “dumpster fire” like the first debate in Cleveland, Ohio. At just 44-years old, Welker made history as the second woman of color to moderate a general election presidential debate. The first was Carol Simpson in 1992. Over 125,000 tweets commended Welker for her excellent work as the moderator, particularly her ability to keep candidates to their 2-minute time limit and from interrupting.


Donald Trump making a point, gesturing with his right hand.

Joe Biden speaking while expressing his point with hand gestures. He holds a pen in one hand.

Moderator Kristen Welker on stage at presidential debate. Welker made history as the second black woman in United States history to host a general presidential debate in the United States following Carole Simpson from 1992.

Attendees and Celebrities

The 2020 presidential election was one of the most highly publicized and consequential elections since the Civil War. It also involved two of the most recognizable men in the world, and the debate at Belmont took place in a highly politicized and polarized environment. Former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden may have been the main attraction, but many other important people attended the event. Moreover hundreds of people worked behind the scenes to make the debate possible with changes and adjustments being made until the moment the candidates walked on stage. From the candidates to Belmont Campus Security to university officials to the news media, everyone played an important role.


Donald Trump and Joe Biden debate on stage

Donald Trump and Joe Biden debate on stage inside the Curb Event Center at Belmont University.

President Bob Fisher speaking on stage

Belmont’s President Bob Fisher addresses the hall before the debate. Dr. Fisher announced his retirement on November 10, 2020 after 20 years as president.

(Former) First lady Melania Trump walking into debate hall

First lady Melania Trump.

Tiffany Trump walking into debate hall

Tiffany Trump attended the debate wearing a mask. President Trump’s family did not wear masks at the first debate.

Ivanka Trump walking into debate hall

Ivanka Trump attended the debate wearing a mask. President Trump’s family did not wear masks at the first debate.

President Biden embracing his Wife at the debate.

President Biden embracing his Wife at the debate. Both are masked and followed protocols.

Special Agent in Charge Todd Hudson hands Chief of Campus Security Pat Cunningham a plaque recognizing the Belmont Security team's hard work during the Presidential debate.

The Presidential Secret Service and Belmont Campus Security worked together for months prior to the event. Special Agent Todd presented the Belmont Campus Security with a plaque to recognize their efforts.

John Daly and Kid Rock talk in the stands before debate

Kid Rock, an influential celebrity, owns a bar and restaurant in Nashville. Despite his outspoken anti-mask views, he wore a mask to the debate.

Two Belmont student volunteers standing in front of the fountain.

In addition to other volunteers, the students at Belmont University played a big role in helping set up for the debate and helping it run smoothly. Without the extra hands around campus, the debate would not have been as successful as it turned out.

Two cafeteria workers standing together in the Harrington Dining Place at Belmont.

Belmont University Cafeteria workers from the Harrington Place Dining Hall did not attend the debate but they cooked the food for students and debate participants. Pictured above is Tonya and Antonio.

April Hefner, Leslie Lenser, Mary Claire Dismukes and John Carney at Belmont University.

Pictured above is April Hefner, Leslie Lenser, Mary Claire Dismukes and John Carney at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, October 22, 2020. Belmont faculty and the news media played a big role in the debate.

Gary Hunter standing in a room presenting at Belmont University.

Gary Hunter is part of Communication Services at Belmont University. He helped set up audio recording and wiring at the debate.

Debate Day Schedule

A whirlwind of events led up to the debate, including many of the freshmen living in dorms being shipped off to the Opryland land hotel. To continue preparing for this event, lots of day-of-preparations went into making sure the debate went smoothly. Ancillary spaces, marketing, volunteers, and media all helped pull together this event.

3:00 am: Additional media outlets arrive to cover the debate
6:00 am: Volunteers start their day at entry checkpoints and in debate hall
2:00-3:20 pm:Trump and first lady Melania Trump exited Air Force One at the BNA at about 2pm. Biden’s plane landed in Nashville at 3:20pm
4:45 pm: Protests begin outside of the Debate Hall
7:30pm: Biden’s motorcade arrived at Belmont at about 7:30 pm. Trump arrived on campus soon afterward

8:00 pm: Debate starts
9:30 pm: Debate ends
10:30 pm: Trump and Biden depart Nashville
11:30pm: Most Belmont Students arrive back on Campus from Opryland
12:00 am: Last of the volunteers depart campus


Photo overlooking media tents early morning on debate day

A bird’s eye view overlooking media tents in the early morning hours of debate day.

Whiteboard saying "Welcome to Nashville" signed with a thank you from Jill and Joe Biden

Jill and Joe Biden leave a message on a white board on Belmont’s campus after the debate.

Kristen Welker standing inside the Debate Hall with Belmont student.

Kristen Welker preparing before the debate with a student from Belmont.

Belmont student Daniel (Danny) Deforest shows off is pass in front of Debate Hall

Belmont student Daniel (Danny) Deforest shows off his pass in front of the Debate hall.