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Home > Debate Team Growth Accelerates in New International League

Debate Team Growth Accelerates in International League

January 8th, 2013


David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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Blake Meadows (l), John Ehrett (c), and Jim Tallmon (r) in Berlin

Having just returned from competing at the World Universities Debating Championships in Berlin and beating two teams from Cambridge and one from Dublin, PHC Professor of Rhetoric and Director of Debate Dr. Jim Tallmon said, “Finishing within the top ten percent of teams in the world is within reach. I am excited about what we’re accomplishing. The Berlin experience confirmed to us that this is where we want to be and that, by God’s grace, we have what it takes to be competitive in this league.”

To watch the team (Blake Meadows and John Ehrett) compete and win against teams from Glasgow, Cambridge, and Leiden, click here

“The World Championship was an amazing experience both from a competitive perspective as well as the cultural dialogue,” debater Blake Meadows said, “For me, British Parli is more than just a chance to debate. It is an opportunity to influence the cultural conversation that is ongoing between the best and brightest from around the world. This chance for cultural dialogue is unique to British Parli and is the essence of why I debate in this league.”

While PHC’s forensics teams have done well over the years, the debate team’s leadership came to realize that the league in which they had been competing was in decline. The team held a “debate summit” to explore other leagues that rewarded a debate style consistent with PHC’s institutional ethos, and with competition and substantive argumentation.

They eventually found what they were looking for in World Universities Debating Union British Parliamentary style debate. 

“It’s been a long journey to find a league that best reinforces PHC’s ideals,” said John Ehrett, junior student assistant coach in charge of mentoring. “To really take things to the next level, we need to continue engaging with the world’s top debaters on the international stage. I can’t think of a better avenue than Worlds Debate to truly ‘lead the nation and shape the culture.’ International travel is one of the best tools in our arsenal for accomplishing that.”

“Worlds Debate” is a global debating league, emphasizing broad knowledge of current events, quick wit, and rhetorical skills. It demands student’s best and pits them against opponents from the best universities in the world. That includes many of the Ivy League schools, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, Limerick, and schools from throughout Australia, Asia, Africa, India, and the Americas. This year PHC will compete in Toronto, Oxford, Cambridge, and Berlin.

“PHC Debate has been able to successfully engage the culture of ideas that British Parli represents,” Meadows said. “I have found this venue to be an incredible cultural opportunity both to engage with the ideas of others as well as to represent the ideas we hold dear as an institution.”

Two of novice debaters, Ryan McDonald and Joseph Samelson, won PHC Debate’s first championship round in British Parliamentary debate at a tournament in Rochester, NY this past fall. Before the Oxford and Cambridge tournaments, PHC debate alumni helped current students prepare.

“Many Ivy League schools avoid quality debate leagues, or practice a style of debate we consider sophistic,” said Isaiah McPeak, former Executive Coach and PHC Debater, (now Head Coach and CEO of Ethos Debate), “This conclusion to PHC’s quest for a competitive arena finally puts the team in the deepest end of the pool on the widest range of topics. That’s exactly where we need to be and what the school’s mission is all about.”

The debate team is searching for ways to bridge the cultural divide and influence the debate culture for Christ and for liberty. The team is serious about meeting people and cultivating relationships with them, praying for them by name and striving always to show them Christian love and friendship.

                              Some of PHC's debate team

“Beyond competition and achievement, this is a team of highly talented future leaders who are committed to communicating conservative Christian ideas across a vast cultural divide to judges and competitors with both wisdom and eloquence!” Tallmon said. “I just can’t help but think there are people who are looking for precisely such an endeavor to support.”

Travel Budget Fundraiser

With the debate team competing in tournaments internationally, the team’s travel budget needs additional resources. PHC Debate’s current travel budget is based on regional travel that typically culminates in a national tournament, somewhere within the continental U.S. International travel requires additional funding, so the team has set about to raise its own international airfare each year. They are currently operating a fundraising auction with the help of “Auctions on Main” of Purcellville, VA., to which students and college supporters have donated items for sale.

Mark Albright, Auctioner for Auctions on Main, is excited to see what happens with PHC’s debate teams. To donate to the PHC Debate Team, click here.

“A few years ago, when the Moot Court team beat Oxford, it really put PHC on the map,” Albright said. “Now, the debate team operating at this elevated level will also build Patrick Henry College’s stature in academia.”