Two Hollins students were among ”the best and brightest student debaters” at The Lafayette Debates, sponsored by the Embassy of France and The George Washington University, April 12 – 13 in Washington, D.C.
According to the event’s website, the debate tournament offers “an opportunity to engage with prominent international relations scholars and professionals on issues of political, social and cultural significance to citizens of not only the French Republic and the United States, but also the world.”
Hollins’ invitation to compete came on the heels of the university’s debate team winning the 15th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl, held in February at Randolph-Macon College.
“The executive who organizes The Lafayette Debates witnessed Hollins’ victory and was very impressed,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy James Downey, who serves as the team’s faculty coordinator.
Madchen Specht ’16 and Rory Keeley ’17 represented Hollins at the event, which focuses on addressing issues of great importance to both the United States and France as a way to encourage discourse and interaction between the two nations. The featured topic at this year’s debates was the impact of globalization on culture and cultural industries. Specifically, the objectives of the international agreement on cultural preservation, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, were researched and debated by college and university students from both countries.
Hollins faced the United States Military Academy in the first round, and then defeated Hampden-Sydney College in the “Rivals Round” that pitted rival schools against one another (other matches in the round included Harvard-Yale and Army-Navy). In subsequent rounds, Hollins took on Wake Forest and NYU.
Downey, Specht, and Keeley attended a reception hosted by the French Embassy on Saturday evening, April 12. “The Honorable Monsieur Francois Delatttre, France’s ambassador to the United States, spoke elegantly about the history of France-U.S. relations,” Downey said. He added that Hollins will receive a letter of commendation from the French Embassy for participating in this year’s event.
”It was a wonderful experience for Hollins, and we are hoping it will turn into a permanent invitation to each year’s Lafayette Debates.”
The Lafayette Debates website states that “now, more than ever, a vigorous and respectful transatlantic dialogue is of the utmost importance not only to the citizens of the French Republic and the United States, but also the world.” The event traces its roots back to 1822, when The George Washington University debate team was founded as “The Enosinian Society.” Two years later, General Lafayette of France was received by the society, and George Washington Lafayette, his son, took part in a debate with society members. The Lafayettes were subsequently installed as honorary members and a bust of General Lafayette was placed in Enosinian Hall. To commemorate the occasion, a series called The Lafayette Debates was held. The event was recently revived by the French Embassy and The George Washington University.