A procession of the country’s political stars, including presidents, cabinet officials and campaign strategists, has traveled to Lexington, Virginia, every four years since 1908 to participate in Washington and Lee University’s presidential Mock Convention.
Mock Con, as W&L’s students refer to it, has correctly picked the eventual nominee of the party out of power 19 of the past 25 presidential elections, and the candidates or their campaign leaders have taken notice. Bill Clinton played saxophone after his address in a gym-turned convention hall. Former President Harry S. Truman keynoted the 1960 event. Barry Goldwater, Andrew Young, Tip O’Neill, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Mario Cuomo and George W. Bush (on tape) have spoken.
“Mock Con,” a documentary, narrated by author and former CBS newsman Roger Mudd and funded by W&L’s Class of 1953, will recount the history, drama and inspiration of 25 mock presidential conventions on public television stations around Virginia beginning Oct. 22.
Historic footage and photos chronicle everything from balloon drops to the collapse and death of U.S. Sen. Alvin Barkley of Kentucky, who was vice president under Harry S. Truman and a Democratic presidential candidate, as he completed an impassioned speech to the assembled student body. The history of Mock Con takes the viewer on a journey through a century American history featuring its key players.
Seth McCormick-Goodheart and Lisa McCown of W&L’s Special Collections archive joined senior Wilson Hallett in leading the retrieval of historical records and film. Mudd, a 1950 graduate of W&L, contributed his personal knowledge, journalism experience and narration. Executive producer Bill Parks of digital media company Dominion Post, a 1982 alumnus, and lead writer Joe Fab supervised the production.
“It is the most authentic and accurate collegiate political convention in America, providing an engaging, real-life, educational experience for countless W&L students,” said Beau Dudley, W&L executive director of Alumni Affairs and a Mock Con participant as a member of the Class of 1974. Inspired at least in part by Mock Con, numerous W&L students have gone on to become political leaders, including 29 U.S. senators, 60 members of the House of Representatives, 300 executive branch officials, a Supreme Court associate justice, plus governors and mayors.
Broadcasts of “Mock Con” in the Richmond area will take place on WCVE-TV 23, Richmond, and WHTJ-TV 41, Charlottesville, Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. and Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. Harrisonburg/Front Royal/Lexington/Lynchburg stations WVPT-TV 51/WVPY-TV 42 will air the program Nov. 5 at 8 p.m., and Norfolk-based WHRO-TV 15 will broadcast it Nov. 15 at 8 p.m.
Comcast Digital subscribers in Lexington receive WVPT on cable channels 2 and 219 (HD) and in Lynchburg on cable channels 16 and 219.