Atlanta, GA 30322
Dobbs U.C., Suite 240E
About Emory Debate
Emory University was founded in Covington, Georgia on a campus known as Oxford in 1837. That year the Phi Gamma Literary Society was formed followed two years later by the Ignatius Few Literary Society. Modeled after the literary societies of British Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, the Phi Gamma and Few Societies were organized around the practice of the forensic and literary arts. Students in these societies held weekly debates in their halls on the old Oxford campus. All students attended the debates and diaries of the day describe the subjects and content of some of these events.
Emory relocated to its current campus in 1914 and the literary societies continued their tradition of public debates. Under the direction of Theology and Speech Professor Nolan A. Goodyear, an intercollegiate debating team emerged from the weekly meetings of the societies. The decade from 1925 to 1935 was a golden era for debate at Emory. The team competed successfully against its college rivals at Duke, Princeton, and Harvard. Teams from British Universities, Oxford, Ireland, London, and Cambridge, visited the campus almost every year to participate in audience debates that filled the spacious Glenn Memorial sanctuary just inside the gates to Emory.
During World War II, travel restrictions limited the intercollegiate dimension of debate. Professor Goodyear retired and the literary societies dissolved. After the war, the debate team was revived under assistant professor of speech George A. Neely. It was after World War II, that the United States Military Academy also began to host the first national collegiate debate championship tournaments, known as the National Debate Tournament or N.D.T. In 1950, Alben W. Barkley, a graduate of Emory debate and former United States Vice-President, granted permission to the Emory debaters to name the debate team, the Barkley Forum.
In 1951, the Barkley Forum hosted its first high school debate tournament, a tournament first won by Woodlawn High School of Georgia. In 1959, Cairo high school, coached by Glenn Pelham, won the Barkley Forum for High Schools. In 1961, the Barkley Forum membership asked the same Glenn Pelham, who would also serve two terms in the Georgia State Senate, to coach the Emory University debate team. He accepted and the Barkley Forum went on to become one of the most successful debating organizations in the country. In 1967, Emory won its first national title in academic debate when Susan Cahoon, Mark Frankel, Joe Longino, and Bill McDaniel brought home the DSR-TKA national championship. Since 1967, Emory debate has won over twenty national championships.
The Beginning of the Modern Era
In 1972, Glenn Pelham retired and one of his most successful debaters, a third seed at the National Debate Tournament, became Director of the Barkley Forum. Melissa Maxcy Wade took over the program from her mentor and began a new era in debate at Emory. The Wade era has seen the Barkley Forum grow in membership, achieve record-setting success, and expand community service. Emory University also qualified for the National Debate Tournament for the first time in 1964. In 1996, Emory won the National Debate Tournament for the first time when David Heidt and Kate Shuster won 19 of 20 ballots during the elimination rounds, defeating the University of Iowa on a 5-0 decision. Emory has since won the tournament three times and finished second three times.
Emory University joined the Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA) in 1985, attending the first CEDA National Championship Tournament several years later.. Emory has been in the late elimination rounds of CEDA nationals often, winning the national championship in 1998. That year, the senior teams of Anne Marie Todd and Vic Tabak, and Stephen Heidt and Dan Fitzmier, both advanced to the final round closing out the finals for the only time in tournament history. 1998 was the same year Emory participated in the American Debate Association (ADA) National Tournament. That year the team of Anjan Sahni and Kenya Hansford won the Open Division of the ADA Tournament. Emory Teams haves since won the ADA tournament in 2002, 2004, and 2008.
Diversity in Debate
While the Barkley Forum has experienced remarkable competitive success in the last two decades, the Forum has also remained committed to making debate opportunities available to those denied and deterred from participating in prior eras. Emory University has remained committed to the increased participation of women in debate. Intercollegiate debate was largely dominated by male debaters and coaches for decades. Susan Cahoon was the first woman to represent Emory in the elimination rounds of the NDT in 1967, marking the beginning of an era in which Emory women would compete in the elimination rounds of the NDT more than ten times, culminating in Kate Shuster's 1996 national championship. Eight women have won national championships while at Emory including Susan Cahoon, (DSR-TKA, 1967) Kate Schuster, (NDT champion with David Heidt, 1996), Kenya Hansford (American Debate Association [ADA] champion with Anjan Sahni, 1997), Anne Marie Todd (CEDA champion with Vic Tabak, Dan Fitzmier and Stephen Heidt, 1997), Rania Nassredine (ADA champion with Scott Phillips, 2002), Vicki Suarez-Palomo (ADA champion with Mike Greenstein, 2005), and Aimi Hamraie and Julie Hoehn (first all women NDT champions, 2007). The Barkley Forum has also encouraged the growth of female participation in debate by supporting workshops for women in debate, publishing materials for coaching women in debate, mentoring female coaches at the high school and collegiate level, and providing scholarships for young women to attend the Emory National Debate Institute.
High School Support
The Barkley Forum has always been firmly committed to supporting high school forensics. The high school tournament, the Barkley Forum for High Schools, began in 1951, and continues today providing top-flight national competition at the high school level. In addition, the BFHS takes the opportunity of the tournament to showcase successful high school participants in final rounds packed with large audiences. The BFHS also honors the high school teachers who work hard to provide a forensics education to their students. Each weekend throughout the school year, thousands of high school teachers take time to travel to high school debate tournaments out of sheer commitment to the value of forensic pedagogy. The BFHS sponsors the Barkley Forum Key Society, a national honor society of high school coaches inducted for their demonstrated commitment to the art of forensics education.
The Barkley Forum also hosts the Emory National Debate Institute, begun in 1965, to provide training and education for high school teachers and students. This two-week session brings some of the nation's finest forensic minds to campus each summer to explore the scholastic debate topic and learn fundamentals of debate. Members of the Forum are frequently assigned to assist metro area programs as part of a supervised educational studies internship and make guest appearances at schools upon request. The Forum sponsors seven middle school tournaments, six Atlanta UDL high school tournaments, and an Atlanta UDL city championship for high schools and middle schools. The Forum also provides faculty support to workshops and tutorials across the U.S. as the primary consultant and trainer for the UDL national education reform movement.
Debate at Emory includes a long tradition of civic involvement. Back to the early days of the literary societies holding debates for audiences in crowded halls, Emory University has always recognized that debates are not ends in themselves but a means of cultivating, nurturing, and maintaining an active and participatory citizenry. In the first hundred years of the University, debates were staged for public exhibition, designed to entertain and educate. As academic debate moved into intercollegiate competition, debate at Emory continued to flourish as a public and competitive program.
Beginning in 1960, the Barkley Forum moved beyond public debates and began to use competitive debate to increase civic involvement. Under the direction of Mr. Thomas Glenn Pelham, the Forum began the Emory National Debate Institute, in part to increase debate opportunities, but also to improve the overall educational opportunity for high school students in Georgia and nearby states. Mr. Pelham also initiated the tradition of the Barkley Forum Annual Awards Banquet, at which students, staff, and faculty of Emory are acknowledged for their support of Forum activities and goals. Additionally, the Emory Chapter of Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha, the honorary academic forensics society, awards the Georgia Speaker of the Year. The honor, presented to a Georgian for intelligent, responsible, and effective communication, reaffirms the Barkley Forum's commitment that the art of forensics should be used for the benefit of the broader community. The recipients present a brief speech, usually demonstrating their commitment to civil society. Past recipients include former President Jimmy Carter; former UN Ambassador Andrew Young; Benjamin Mays, leader in education; Mills B. Lane, investment banker; Robert Shaw, former director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; and Leah Sears of the Georgia Supreme Court, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter; actress, activist, and philanthropist Jane Fonda; former United States Senator Max Cleland; Pulitzer Prize Winning political cartoonist Mike Lukovich; and, former United States Congressional Representative Bob Barr among others. Mr. Pelham signified his commitment to public service by serving two terms as a Senator in the Georgia State Legislature.
Melissa Wade continues the Barkley Forum tradition of debate as a civic activity. In addition to making the services of the Barkley Forum available for campus activity, the Barkley Forum is a pioneer in the growth of Urban Debate Leagues. UDLs began in Atlanta in 1985 in partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools and a few dedicated teachers. In 1996, Emory University received a substantial grant from the Open Society Institute to significantly expand the program setting up pilot UDL's in other cities. Within three years over 2,000 inner-city high school students in more than ten cities nationwide were debating who had never had the opportunity to debate before. Today there are UDLs in 23 cities and over 35,000 students and teachers have received the benefits of this rigorous academic program. In 2007 outreach programs led by Emory staff and faculty were begun in South Korea, Jamaica, and Columbia.
In addition to continuing the traditions established by Mr. Pelham, Ms. Wade also takes civic responsibility seriously. She is available to press and media outlets for public commentary. She is one of only three debate coaches who has served as a panelist for the Associated Press Presidential debate coverage for every election since 1976. She appeared on ABC's Nightline for the 1980 Presidential debates, and on CNN for the 2000 debates. She has appeared in other local and national media outlets touting the value of debate as an educational tool of empowerment.