View a photo gallery of the conversation on the Daily News photo blog.
David Letterman returned to what's starting to look like a second home today – the stage at Emens Auditorium – for a wide-ranging talk with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that touched on the "Occupy" protests, presidential politics and even the Penn State scandal.
The two were joined by President Jo Ann Gora, who assured the packed house that the scene of pepper-sprayed students at the University of California-Davis during an "Occupy Wall Street" protest would not happen at Ball State.
Ball State graduate Letterman said he hoped not.
"Parents send their kids to these universities with the trust that this won't happen," he said.
Maddow said the protesters across the country are seeking to reform politics itself and are less interested in electing new politicians.
"(It's) less about picking new people," she said. "More about picking new questions."
Letterman appeared with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone only last year and reprised his trademark academic modesty at the start of today's visit.
"I graduated with a solid 2.0," he said after students welcomed him on stage with a standing ovation. "Let's hear it for mediocrity."
Gora's appearance had not been previously advertised, and the appearance of a third chair on stage before the event was a mystery to the crowd.
Letterman and Maddow focused much of their remarks on the economy and politics, including next year's presidential race. Maddow said the country was due for an economic turnaround — and soon.
"We're going to be a different country by the time we get out of it unless we start getting out of it faster," she said.
Letterman noted that Republicans have struggled to settle on a candidate for next year, as one front-runner after another has fallen behind.
"Many of these guys seem pathetic and laughable," he said.
Maddow noted the potential for humor amid the serious business of picking the candidates.
"Mitt Romney has hired a Sarah Palin speech writer," she said. "You guys keep thinking I'm setting up jokes. This is news!"
The MSNBC commentator and Gora lamented the situation at Penn State, where a former assistant football coach has been accused of sexual misconduct with young boys. Both said the school should have forfeited the rest of this year's games.
Rachel Maddow wrapped up the visit with a suggestion for students: You don't have to find your soulmate while in college, but now is a good time to start thinking about it.
"One thing I wish that I'd thought about in college: It's easy when you're of college age to prioritize romantic life."