Students attend drawing for Ole Miss debate tickets

OXFORD, MS (WMC-TV) - Thousands wanted tickets, but in the end, only a handful will gain entrance to the biggest event in the Mid-South this year.

After weeks of working, thousands of students waited Sunday to hear the names called in a drawing to see who would get to see Friday's presidential debate between candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

Inside a giant tumbler were tickets, each with a name printed on it.  Each ticket represented a student trying to get inside the debate hall Friday night.

Tonell Jones was one of them.

"It would be a great thing to witness," she said.  "Great thing to tell my kinds about."

Just getting the opportunity took a lot of work.  To get their hands on an entry ticket, student had to, among other things, attend a political seminar.

They could get up to five tickets.  Jones collected all five.

"I didn't think I could do it all, but once I went to the first three, I knew I had to get them all," he said.

The first presidential debate with an African American as a major party nominee is made even more historic by being held at Ole Miss - a university nearly torn apart by racial tension 40 years ago.

"Not too long ago, James Meredith was walking though this area," freshman Lucas Jackson said.

"Like this building, we still bear the scars that tried to block James Meredith from these very doors," associated student body president Graham Purcell added.

Sunday, in front of that same building, instead of a riot to keep an African American out, a diverse crowd waited to see if they could get in to hear an African American in his first debate for president.

Even Sunday, Ole Miss officials still didn't know exactly how many student it would be able to allow inside the debate.  Each winner of Sunday's drawing will go through an intensive background check before getting a ticket.

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