It was one of the defining moments of the second 2016 presidential debate, and it almost didn't happen.

At the very end of the second "town hall" debate, after roughly 90 minutes of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ripping into each other's policies, scandals, and character in front of a small audience, one man stood up to ask the evening's final question.

His name is Karl Becker. He is a father of two from Washington, Missouri. And he had a simple request:


"Would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?"

Trump and Clinton enjoy a rare, friendly moment. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The candidates laughed warmly. The audience let out an audible "Aww!" And people around the world quickly declared that Karl Becker had "won" the debate.

Little did they know Karl was also prepared to ask a second potential question, one they'd never hear.

"My other question had to do with executive powers," he said. "I guess in retrospect that was pretty lame."

Trump and Clinton face off again in the election's third and final debate on Oct. 19, 2016. So I chatted with Karl about the origin of his now-famous question and what he'll be watching for as the election comes to an end:

Q: Who is Karl Becker?

Karl asks his question. Image via MSNBC/YouTube.

Karl: Who am I? Gosh. I'm a 49-year-old dad in Washington, Missouri. That's a suburb of St. Louis. I have two kids, Darcy and Shane, who just turned 16.

Q: How did you come up with "the question"?

Karl: My son and I volunteer at a little league football association where I live, and I ran it by him that morning. He said, "Oh yeah, that's a pretty good question." My daughter didn't like it. She wanted something that was more directed to Mr. Trump in regards to the "Access Hollywood" hot mic, Billy Bush scenario. But I explained to Darcy, the questions ... had to be questions that could be asked of either candidate.

Q: You've gotten a lot of attention from the media, but like your fellow debate-goer Ken Bone, you don't really seem to care for the attention. What's it like being a minor celebrity?

Karl: Most things don't excite me. It's been interesting. I tried to involve my daughter. She is somewhat focused on the journalism side of her schooling, and I want this to be an opportunity for her to meet folks who may be a help to her as she figures out what she wants to do with her life.
***
But I wasn't looking for the spotlight, and I'm not looking to continue the spotlight. Let [Ken Bone] ride the wave. I'm just taking this as it comes.

Q: I have to ask, have you decided who to vote for yet?

Both candidates seemed delighted by Karl's question. NBC/YouTube

Karl: There seems to be more, for lack of a better word, "crap" coming out on both candidates. And unfortunately, I don't know if I'll make a decision prior to November 8th.

Q: OK, so if you haven't decided, what'll be going through your head when you eventually step inside the voting booth?

Karl: I know their platforms. I can go on websites and read their policies. But what is that going to mean for the bigger picture? How is this going to really affect my kids?
***
It's going to come down to who do I think is more morally and ethically solid? ... Who's going to survive the mud being thrown the best?

Q: Will you be watching the final debate? And if so, what will you be looking for?

Karl: I'm going to watch the debate. I have parent-teacher conferences at my son's high school from 6 to 8 p.m., but then a film crew from St. Louis wants to send a crew to wherever I'm going to be watching. I'm up in the air about that.
***
I would like to believe that there will be more discussion between the two candidates of some worthiness. However, I don't think that's going to happen.

Q: If you could ask the candidates another question tonight, what would it be?

Karl: You stumped me. I honestly don't know. Maybe "Do you think we could speed up the debate and end it sooner?"

In the end, I left the conversation thinking that Karl Becker was a genuinely nice dude.

He even said he doesn't get why anyone would care what he thinks about the candidates.

Trump and Clinton go in for the handshake. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

"There was a person over my shoulder (at the debate). He's a neurosurgeon ... The gentleman sitting to my left, he was a Ph.D. student in neuroscience."

No one interviewed those people, Karl said.

But there's a reason his debate question elicited such a response two weeks ago.

In the midst of one of the nastiest and most shocking presidential elections in recent history, we all yearn for the days when the candidates actually respected one another and where the choice ultimately came down to substantive policy differences — not which candidate you thought was more or less likely to destroy the country.

We care what Karl thinks because he reminds us that after this massive dumpster fire of an election burns out, we'll all need to find a way to coexist with one another again.

The Shane and Darcy Beckers of the world deserve that much.

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