North Woodmere resident Jeremy Epstein had no idea a simple question about job prospects after college would spur an online frenzy and bring him local fame.
The hashtag #jeremy was trending on Twitter before the debate ended.
Epstein was one of 82 undecided voters randomly chosen to participate in the town hall-style debate Tuesday night at Hofstra and the first of 11 participants to ask President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney a question.
The Adelphi University junior may have his 17-year-old sister to credit for the "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity.
"The Gallup poll randomly calls residents of Nassau County and originally we ignored their first call because we thought it was telemarketer. My sister, who did a project on the Gallup poll I think in her statistics class, answered the phone when they called back. Since she's not of age to vote she gave me the phone," he told Patch.
Epstein said he answered some questions, was told the Secret Service would be performing a background check on him and later received a packet of information in the mail inviting him to the debate.
Debate moderator Candy Crowley chose one of the four questions Epstein submitted. He kicked off the debate with this query: "What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?"
"Both candidates spoke eloquently," he said. Romney assured him he'd have a job. President Obama said he believed in America's youth and told Epstein his future was bright.
"I don't think they were talking to just me," he said. "They were talking to a lot of people who are in the same position - college students worried if they'll be able to support themselves."
Check-in started at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning but Epstein arrived early to ensure himself a seat on the stage. After a rehearsal in the debate hall, Epstein had about two-and-a-half hours of downtime before he went live.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said. "Not a lot of people get to meet the president or meet the governor during election season and just sit near them while they debate each other. I don't think I'll ever forget that."
Epstein, who is studying exercise science and communications at Adelphi, said he really hasn't had a free moment to watch the debate but said his opinion of who won really doesn't matter.
"At the end of the day, I don't think my opinion or anybody else's opinion about who won matters," he said. "It's just what the candidates said in their answers to the questions. People shouldn't form their opinions based on who they want to vote for. They should vote for whoever they believe will lead the country better."