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Harvard Holds Debate Tourney

1,700 Students Attend 23rd Annual Forensics Competition

By Jal D. Mehta

About 1,700 high school students from 35 states congregated at Harvard this weekend for the 23rd annual Harvard Invitational Forensics Tournament.

"It has been one of the best-run [Harvard] conferences ever," said Eileen Waite, coach at New Jersey's Randolph High School. "The competition here is as stiff as at nationals."

The tournament, one of the largest in the nation, hosts competitions in 10 events.

Two of the tournament's categories center around debate. "Policy" contestants group themselves into teams of two and use research done before the conference to debate current issues of national policy.

"Lincoln-Douglas" (L.D.) debate is an individual event in which students discuss the ethical values of a tournament-wide resolution. L.D. is named for the debates over slavery between President Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen Douglas in the 19th century.

There were 100 Harvard students among the tournament's judges, most of whom are members of the Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society (HSPDS), according to HSPDS President Scott A. Chesin '98.

The L.D. competition had six preliminary rounds with 246 participants. After the preliminaries, 32 debaters were left to advance to the single-elimination rounds.

Dave Browne, a senior at New York City's Regis High School, won the L.D. tournament. Browne said he was admitted to Harvard earlier this year.

The topic of this year's L.D. debate was: "In United States policy, the principle of universal human rights ought to take precedence over our conflicting national interest."

Browne, who was the L.D. co-champion at the Harvard tournament two years ago, said one of his main arguments was, "Just because a right exists, doesn't mean we have to do everything in our power to fulfill it."

The speech events offered at this year's tournament were extemporaneous speaking, original oratory, dramatic interpretation, humorous interpretation and a newly-added event--duo interpretation.

Nicolas Dumont of New York's Scarsdale High School won the extemporaneous speaking competition. Dumont gave a speech on the topic of the role of France among world powers.

"I was very surprised," said Dumont, who is French. "I was third at [the Yale tournament], but this is clearly the most prestigious thing I have ever won."

Juniors Brad Sturges and Brad Horenstein, winners of the duointerpretation event, said physical comedy was the key to their victory.

"We added more physical humor," said Sturges, who hopes to attend the Tisch School for the Arts. "We were running through a hall-way in place, we really got into the characters."

The tournament serves as the major fundraiser for both the Debate Council and HSPDS, said Sherry Hall, one of the coaches of the council and a primary organizer of the tournament.

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