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 2016’s student organizers will premiere a documentary, funded by W&L’s Class of 1953 and narrated by author and former CBS newsman Roger Mudd, on the drama and inspiration of 25 mock conventions Feb. 12, 7 p.m., at Stackhouse Auditorium on campus.
Historic footage and photos chronicle everything from balloon drops to the collapse and death of Alvin Barkley, U.S. senator from Kentucky, former vice president and 1956 Democratic 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 of 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 careful 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.