Here's what Shields had to say:
Perhaps infused with this optimism, Shields acknowledged that politicians can be "venal, self-centered and short-sighted," but also noted that "it is not a spectator sport" and told the students it is the responsibility of everyday citizens to make politics something more.Read the full story in today's edition of The Mercury.
Part of that responsibility is to watch the debates, including tonight's debate between the vice presidential candidates, Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joe Biden, he said.
"The debates are the only time you will see both candidates on the same stage at the same time, answering the same questions," he said.
They also give voters a sense of who the candidates are and how they will react, a sense that is not conveyed in sound bites or attack ads.
He said Palin has an advantage in tonight's debate in that her much-lampooned interviews with CBS Anchor Katie Couric "were cause for alarm by Republicans" and as a result, "the bar of expectation is pretty low for her in this debate."
Shields echoed the conventional wisdom that Palin had been "obviously over-rehearsed" for the Couric interviews and too filled with talking points by handlers. As a result, she lost her "authenticity. If she doesn't know the answer, she should say so. Americans will accept that."
As for Biden, Shields said he must be careful not to seem condescending to Palin and not spend time correcting her. "He has to remind himself that he is running against John McCain," Shields said.
He must also curb his tendency to be verbose, Shields said. "The definition of eternity is Joe Biden being interviewed by Chris Matthews," he joked.