President Obama stated in his speech to students that “Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.” His first appointment for the Supreme Court was a former South Bronx high school debater, Sonya Sotomayor. His former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was a former high school debater (and her husband and former President Bill Clinton, also a high school debater). Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, had this to say about debate, “Competitive debate is one of the great equalizers of educational opportunity. In a number of respects, competitive urban debate is almost uniquely suited to building what’s been called the ‘Four C’s’ of 21st century skills-critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. And to that list I might add a fifth ‘C’- for civic awareness and engagement.” Several members of his Cabinet and other staff are also former high school debaters!
Indeed, a survey of US Congress members found that over 60% were members of their school’s speech and debate team! And so this month when our NYC Debaters were recognized with not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 DIFFERENT PRESIDENTIAL AWARDS – it actually comes to no surprise. Every single one of our Great Debaters is more than capable of becoming the next President.
For the past eight weeks during our summer debate camps, I have been in total awe learning from everyone! I’ve seen 4th graders teach 2nd graders about evidence and supporting one’s arguments, middle school debaters completely out argue me in practice rounds, high school debaters learning about subjects that most students wont learn until graduate school, college students interested in bringing back debate to their colleges, and adults, parents and families sitting side by side middle school and elementary students to learn debate skills and strategies.
I’ve also been in total awe at all our amazing summer debate camp instructors! Incredible teachers like Coach DiCo who devoted three weeks to ensuring that any student in Brooklyn has the best opportunities in debate education and teaching middle school students Gandhi, Thoreau, and theories of civil disobedience! The so many volunteers we had at the Manhattan Debate Institute which was the only way we could support 100+ debaters! Huge shout outs to our staff at our Manhattan Debate Institute – Emily, Betty, Jessica, Isabella, Jeslyn, Loretta, Laila, Leighton, Max, Mikhai, Sadie, William, Tommye and apologies for missing anyone there – it was an awesome 2 weeks together at MDI and thank you for everything you did from the classroom to 20 minute treks for breakfast and lunch! Thank you to all our interns and volunteers especially Starr and Yaira for always being there for the debate league! Thank you to our founding staff of Tommye, Frank, Aylin, Laurie at our Bronx, Harlem, and Queens Camps for making history with BXDI, BKDI, and QDI!
As we travel to commemorate the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and for our national champion debaters to meet the first African American President of the United States in the Oval Office, I cannot describe how honored and privileged I am to be able to listen and learn every day from the arguments, speeches, and passion and advocacy of our students. That advocacy is the future for our schools and the future for our world. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
So congratulations and thank you everyone for an incredible summer. There is no summer break for debate! And thank you everyone for making this possible – our parents, our students, our volunteers, our alumni, our teachers, our supporters, our schools, our principals, our community partners, our Board members, our Foundations and donors – everyone with a passion for providing access to one of the oldest and most rigorous academic programs since Ancient Greece – debate. Thank You.
And finally another congratulations for not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 different national presidential honors and the students and teachers mentioned above! And if interested in supporting our Great Debaters this school year, please consider donating to the NYC Debate League! Click here
for more information!
PS – We still have 1 more week of debate camp to go! So see you at our Queens Debate Camp on Monday! 🙂