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Lafayette Debates offers students an opportunity for transatlantic dialogue on subjects of world importance.

By S.A. Reid, Contributing Writer, Campus Life

Emory debaters will spend a portion of their summer vacation on a study tour in Paris, thanks to their recent wins at the prestigious 2019 Lafayette Debates U.S. National Championship.

Ryan James, Tanner Lewis, Sukriti Rawal, and Gabi Yamout – all members of Campus Life’s Alben W. Barkley Forum for Debate, Deliberation, and Dialogue – earned the coveted honor for their strong performances during the elimination rounds held in April at the French Embassy in Washington, DC.

Emory debaters won four of the seven study tour slots awarded for the trip scheduled for June 20-25.

Ryan James
Ryan James
. Photo by Ruth Reyes.

James, a second-year business major, and Lewis, a senior economics and quantitative sciences major, took second place among two-member teams. Rawal, a second-year quantitative sciences and economics major, and Yamout, a third-year public policy analysis and international studies major, were the tournament’s top two speakers.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” says James. “We bought our tickets. I guess it’s actually happening.”

Ed Lee III, senior director of the Barkley Forum, could not be prouder of the team’s competitive success amid a very talented field of opponents. Fifty two-member teams representing colleges and universities across the nation participated.

“That says something about Emory as an academic institution and the Barkley Forum as a debate society,” says Lee.

Tanner Lewis
Tanner Lewis. Photo by Alexa Palomo.

“I guess it boiled down to the team working really well together and collaborating on research effectively,” said Lewis. “Then, at the tournament itself, we delivered a unique combination of critical thinking and knowledge of the topic to wow the judges.”

The Lafayette Debates tradition began in 1824 and is hosted by the French Embassy and The George Washington University. The event offers students an opportunity for transatlantic dialogue on subjects of world importance. This year’s participants debated whether democracy is the best hope for peace. The panel of judges included international affairs scholars and professionals.

Gabi Yamout
Gabi Yamout. Photo by Alexa Palomo.

“I also thought it was challenging and interesting to have to debate in front of judges who are content experts,” said Yamout. “So it was really interesting to have to think about how to adapt the way you explain things to people who aren’t familiar with judging a debate.”

James, Lewis, and Yamout will join other tournament standouts during the study tour to Paris and dialoguing with French diplomats, politicians, academics, and other thought leaders.

Tour participants receive $1,000 to defray the cost of their round-trip international flights, an all- expense-paid stay, and induction into the Young Ambassadors Alumni Network, according to the Lafayette Debates website.

Sukriti RawalSukriti Rawal. Photo by Ruth Reyes.

Rawal, who will not join the study tour, says her participation in the tournament has changed her view of the power of debate.

“Earlier, when I debated, it was mostly for competitive reasons, not so much as something that would be useful to the world,” she explains. “Social justice debates and the Lafayette Debates really help put it into real-world context."

Emory also won the Lafayette Debates national championship in 2014. Over 100 Emory students participate in various Forum outreach and intercollegiate debate activities annually. Barkley Forum members have brought home 26 national championships since 1950, including the National Debate Tournament, Cross-Examination Debate Association, and American Debate Association."

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