Debate Wins National Tourney

Defending the morality of individuals’ rights to sell their votes and arguing in favor of life imprisonment without parole were among the battles Harvard’s Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society (HSPDS) fought on its way to a national championship title this weekend.

HSPDS won the national championship for the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA), after a weekend of intense debating at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

Bringing back a title that has not been Harvard’s since 1998, President Emeritus Nicolas B. Cornell ’04 and Martin L. Roth ’04 beat Cornell Unversity in the final round.

“It was quite exhilarating,” Roth said.

The final topic of debate was defending the idea of life imprisonment without parole. The issue, chosen by the other team, was one that Roth said he had not thought much about prior to the competition.


“It gave me a bit of a panic—my intuitions were on the other side. But this is what we do,” Cornell said.

And they did it well.

“We knew we were on top of our game,” Cornell said.

Cornell said that debating in front of an auditorium of about 400 people in the finals was a remarkable experience.

“It was thrilling but a little nerve-racking, a lot of nervous energy going on,” he said.

Roth said he was unable to predict the judges’ results and waited nervously for their final decision—a vote of six to three.

“We were pretty confident for the other rounds. We were on pins and needles for the final round decision,” Roth said.

Cornell described hearing his teamates hooting and cheering upon their victory.

“Marty [Roth] sort of jumped on top of me and gave me a big hug,” said Cornell, who celebrated last night with his team after the long drive home.

The senior said that both the tournament and the celebration was a great way to end his Harvard debate career.