The Great Debates 2012

You may have known that the film “The Great Debaters”, in which historically Black Wiley College’s debate team beat Harvard University’s debaters, was based upon the true story of the Wiley College debate coach and his team. But did you know that actual Great Debates are being held annually, and that you and your children may be able to attend one?

The Connecticut NAACP recently hosted its fourth annual formal parliamentary debate between teams from one of the historically Black colleges and an Ivy League university. This year’s matchup was between Morehouse College and Yale University, both of whom have very strong debate teams. Moderated by news commentator Marc Lamont Hill, the debate was held in front of a packed house in New Haven’s Schubert Theater. One of the topics debated was the validity of the “Stand Your Ground” laws that have been in the forefront of the news after the Trayvon Martin killing.

The theater was filled with an attentive and enthusiastic audience which included many students from the tri-state area. In the New Haven Register’s article about the debate, found here, moderator Hill was very impressed to see young people in the audience “excited not just about sports, not what someone did on Twitter or Facebook, not just some celebrity gossip, but to see people excited about ideas.” In an exchange with GCP about the Yale event, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous noted, “It is quite something to see 1600 6-12 graders on the edge of their seats for hours of debate. Most had never seen a debate before, many had never visited a college campus before, and the entire audience was thoroughly engaged.”

Building upon the big success of the Connecticut debates, which are the brainchild of Connecticut NAACP State Conference President Scot Esdaile, the NAACP national office is expanding this program across the country. They hosted a debate in Washington, D.C. last year between Yale and Howard and are currently planning the next debate, which will be held in early July in Houston. If you will be in the Houston area at that time and would like to attend this debate, you can contact NAACP South Western Regional Director Carmen Watkins at cwatkins@naacpnet.org.

Kudos to the NAACP for reviving this great tradition! If you’d like to support them in these efforts, you can contact Moneese DeLara, Senior Vice President for Development, at mdelara@naacpnet.org.

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