KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Centre College student from Knoxville will have a special role in Thursday night's debate.
Donovan Whiteside, 20, a Webb School graduate, will be escorting Vice President Joe Biden's wife to her seat.
"I actually have the courtesy of escorting Dr. Biden to her seat and back from her seat to her motorcade with the vice president, so that will be an interesting experience," said Donovan.
Donovan is a junior basketball starter is double majoring in government and finance at Centre College. His big role has him anxious for the big debate.
"I'm feeling really excited, at the same time nervous," said Donovan. "Once I get into that moment, then I'm sure I'll be really comfortable. but right now the anxiety is kind of getting up."
He said the school's campus didn't change much until Wednesday night.
"Last night starting at 10:00 p.m., they did a security sweep of the entire campus until 5:00 a.m. It was basically daylight out here. They had so many lights on that you couldn't even tell it was midnight or 1:00 a.m.," said Donovan.
His parents, Troy and Jacqueline Whiteside, own a business in East Knoxville and are very involved with politics themselves, but on different sides.
Troy is a long-time Republican. Jacqueline is a staunch Democrat.
"It's been a lot of fun, trust me!" Jacqueline laughed. "We agree to disagree."
After growing up in such a politically-active family, the Whitesides' oldest son, Donovan, got the chance to intern this summer in Washington for Congressman Jimmy Duncan.
This fall, Donovan was chosen to be a runner for CNN during the vice-presidential debate taking place on his college campus.
"When I talk to Donovan, I can hear a level of excitement that I've never heard from him. He's finally realized in the last 24 hours how big this opportunity is for him," Troy said.
The biggest news came just a few days ago.
"He said, 'Dad, you're not going to believe it. These guys actually want me to escort one of the candidate's wives off the stage.' I texted him 10 times and I said, 'Donovan, you know lies can get you in hell. Don't tell lies!' He said, 'No, I'm serious'," Troy said.
Now, it's all about preparing for that important moment.
"He's doing a lot of rehearsals. He's in the debate hall a lot. He's working directly with the wives' stand-ins so he makes sure he doesn't trip down the steps or anything like that!" Troy said.
Though Donovan will be physically siding with the Democrats at the debate, his parents said his political leaning is still undecided at this point, and that's just fine with them.
"He's learning a lot. He's very fresh. He's establishing his own way and I really respect that," Jacqueline said.
Classes continued at Centre College this week, despite being in the national spotlight. Donovan, however, was excused from some of them because of his role with CNN.
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