The debate team knew that, with election day growing closer and the highly contested campaigns for the presidency nearing the ends of their sixteen-month-long journies, it would be difficult to avoid the overpowering dialogue about the presidential election. However, to close out the first day of Rollins Family Weekend, on November 4, the world-renowned Rollins College Debate Team brought us a version of the presidential debate so sophisticated that we might have expected it from the candidates themselves had we not known better. Representing Side Government, or Trump, were Dianna Loew ’18 and Katherine Rizzo ‘17; Kolten Ellis ‘17 and Joshua Brown ‘18 represented Clinton as Side Opposition.
There was powerful dialogue on both sides, and one wonders what the presidential debates might have been like if the candidates themselves were this aware of and fluent on the issues. However, the highlight of the evening was Side Government’s ability to make even a candidate like Trump seem like a legitimate contestant in the presidential race by demonstrating clear stances on the issues in question. The chamber was filled with “Hear, Hear” and “Shame, Shame” in support or disdain for the views of both candidates, though there did seem to be a bias for Clinton within the group.
The main issues discussed during the debate included US foreign policy, the Supreme Court’s ability to interpret the Constitution, and education. Side Government’s main points were that a literal interpretation of the Constitution should be required of Supreme Court Justices with a “messiah complex,” that the Department of Education needs to be abolished in favor of a competitive business model for education, and that, realistically, we should not continue taking soft stances on hard problems. Loew ’18 claimed, “Trump will not make popular decisions, but will make decisions that keep you and your family safe. . . We need to be realistic about the situation we are in.”
“The only question we should be asking ourselves on the Eighth,” continued Loew ‘18, “is whether your Make America Great Again hat will be red, white, or blue.”
Meanwhile, Side Opposition focused on some of Trump’s previous failures, such as Trump University, while also making a clear distinction between that which is morally right versus legally right. Side Opposition ended the debate by making clear the distinction between the “rule of iron law represented by Trump” and the “rule of human decency represented by Clinton.” Ellis ’17 stated that it would be possible to “move world community forward in accordance with rule of human decency, as the rule of human decency understands human rights need to be upheld.”
The debate closed with some questions from the audience, with debaters expressing their views regarding their vocations as both students and debaters.
In response to his views regarding the debate, Brown ‘18 echoed American sentiments, “if we don’t have [rhetoric skills] at the foremost, most elite level of policy-making and decision-making in our country, then what are we doing? What do we need to ask of ourselves in terms of fulfilling our duties as educated citizens?”
Loew ‘18 stated, “the basis of the [debating] discipline is to take two arguments and equally skilled rhetors and be able to find the truth from that.”
And while Side Opposition, representing Clinton, won last night’s debate, it won’t be until November 8 that we get to see who will win the only race that matters. The stars of the night, however, were definitely the debaters and their ability to represent the best that a liberal education has to offer. Just last week, for instance, the Rollins Debate Team won first place in the Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl 2016 competition.
Kolten Ellis ’17 expressed his views on a liberal arts education in response to an audience member’s question, saying, “The value of the liberal arts education lies in applying a holistic unified body of knowledge. As students of a liberal arts education, we can engage critically with ideas that matter, and are motivated to apply our education in innovative ways to solve the problems of tomorrow, rather than do jobs available today. A liberal arts education allows us to take a unified body of knowledge from across the disciplines and allow us to innovate and apply that knowledge to something. So, to Marco Rubio, I say welders can wait. It’s time for more philosophers.”