SNF Agora Training: Presidential Debates Past & Present

A virtual primer on the history of U.S. presidential debates and how lessons from the past can be applied to the 2020 election.

What are the origins of presidential debates in the United States? How have past debates contributed to the victory or defeat of presidential candidates? What are some of the important make or break moments in a presidential debate? What can this history teach us about how to watch debates during our current election season?

We will explore these questions and more during the virtual workshop, “SNF Agora Training: Presidential Debates Past & Present.” Media consultant and documentarian, Dana Wolfe, who was the founding executive producer of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series (2011-2017) will guide us through the history of U.S. presidential debates by looking at the role of technology and debate in American democracy. Participants will analyze different debates and techniques used by the candidates and learn what to look for during the first debate on September 29th. This workshop will serve as a primer in advance of the fall 2020 presidential debates and will train participants on how to watch opposing candidates compete through the art of debate. We will be joined by guest speaker Sara Just, executive producer of the PBS NewsHour, who has extensive experience producing and prepping moderators for debates on a national stage.

This virtual event will be a small, interactive workshop limited to Johns Hopkins University students. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions, and will be encouraged to do so.


  • Dana Wolfe, Media Consultant & Documentarian, Founding Executive Producer of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series
  • Sara Just, Executive Producer of the PBS NewsHour, WETA Senior Vice President