Heart of Texas

2021 — Dallas, TX/US

Senior Speaker - Gabriel Chang-Deutsch

Hello Everyone,

I hope you had a successful culmination of the regular season. I want to thank Mr. Mahoney and the tabroom here at St Marks for running a fantastic tournament and the Acolyte coaches for the honor of being senior speaker. This year has been an unprecedented time to debate but continuing to have tournaments and some semblance of the debate community has made it all the more bearable.

When thinking of what to write today, I kept coming back to the things I love about debate. While hard-fought wins and devasting losses come to mind immediately, there is something more that motivated me to spend 10 weekends this year debating.  Having a captive audience where you get to try out (almost) any new idea you have under the sun and then have it rigorously torn apart has taught me some of the most important lessons. I have been exposed to new bodies of literature that changed my own political beliefs and gleaned knowledge from disparate academic disciplines.

This topic specifically has come at an amazing time – working through criminal justice with some of the brightest students in the country has given me perspectives I previously lacked. Debating about the relative importance of crime and deterrence in relation to reform, the political efficacy of introducing certain proposals and the impact of racism and capitalism on “pragmatic” demands has helped me move beyond the binary view of the criminal justice system that exists in national and local discourses.

Many times, these debates feel important but disconnected from ourselves. While it is myopic to say a single argument will have any material effect, any time you do research you will be exposed to the power of debaters. Many important politicians, businesspeople, think tank policy analysts and activists got their start in this space. I’ll bet that you read multiple pieces of evidence from former debaters this tournament.

The relative advantage in prestige and knowledge gained from this activity is invaluable and I would implore you to use these tools for good. Regardless of your ideological predispositions, almost any of us would say debate has been influential in what and how we think. As some of us gain power, it is important to continue to use that mindset debate cultivates, embodying humility about our proposals but being ready to defend previously unstated proposals if they are the most strategic way to reach any end. I don’t think debate can solve everything, but I would much rather have a debater choosing my fate than almost any other group of people.

While in debate, all of us try to segment our learning with the people who think like us. Sometimes we do judge preferences based on who taught at our camp or who coaches our friends and only making arguments we are fully comfortable with which limits the creative possibilities of debate. There are very few spaces with such a tightknit community and adults who will spend hours helping a student from across the country perfect their arguments. The gift of debate is all the different angles you can take and all the different ways you can be wrong. It is my hope everyone reaches out to a judge, asks to do an extra redo at camp or researches the cards in an opponent’s argument you just lost to for an extra 10 minutes. You’ll get strategies for thinking and debating you would have missed otherwise and win a few extra rounds while you’re at it.

Thank you so much to each and every person in the community who has helped me out and good luck this weekend,

Gabriel Chang-Deutsch

Minneapolis South ‘21