Barkley Forum for High Schools

2023 — Atlanta, GA/US

History & Traditions


The Barkley Forum for High Schools is dedicated to those who have built the current tournament experience. The Barkley Forum for High Schools has several institutions dedicated to honoring excellence in forensics. The listing of Member Chairs honors schools with strong forensic programs of today and yesterday. Retired Key Coaches are recalled and honored. 

The Forum salutes those who guide students in education, citizenship, character, creativity and recognition. The Forum congratulates those moderators who know how to teach students to motivate themselves and direct the necessary work to raise funds, to discipline young minds, to run interference where necessary, and to stimulate educational experience rather than pettiness. The Barkley Forum especially appreciates those coaches who can teach the value of vision beyond the trophy.

Your participation in the 68th tournament affirms the pride Emory takes in the efforts of the various schools that have built the Forum. Emory recognizes its debt to you. Thus, in a way thanking you and them, the 68th year will salute success.


Two hundred ninety-five schools do hold or have held Chairs of Membership in the Barkley Forum for High Schools at Emory University. Click here for a full listing of member schools. The currently active schools, all reflecting quality performance of the past, have automatic reservations at the annual January meetings. Their memberships are valid for a minimum of two years. It is not necessary for the schools holding active Chairs to apply for participation in the current year. However, they should register their students online by the deadline to facilitate the acceptance of the maximum number of non-member schools.  Guaranteed reservations will only be held until December 5th to maximize competitive opportunities for all schools.  After December 5, member schools may apply and will be placed on the wait list; at this point, records need to be entered for each student being submitted for consideration.

A member school may be absent for two years without endangering its standing. The third absence in succession vacates the Chair. Likewise, a member school may render an inferior performance at the Barkley Forum for one year without endangering its standing. Two successive years of substandard performance will question the membership. Guests are optional candidates for membership by three successive years of better-than-average performance. A number of schools are now under consideration.

Membership recognizes high quality forensics performance resulting from commitments from the schools. Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy (Texas) was named a member school in 2022.


The most prestigious presentation made by the Emory Barkley Forum is the presentation of the GOLD KEY. A select number of Directors of Forensics will be added in 2023 to this exemplary list of previous recipients. The recognition of those so named will take place at the online Opening Awards Assembly that will be available Thursday, January 26th. 

The complete listing of the notable coaches and honorary designees can be found here.  Invitation to the KEY Society is a lifetime designation as long as the KEY coach comports himself or herself with dignity and the high standards to which role models in the debate community are held.  

In 2022, Mike Bietz (Harvard-Westlake), Kirby Chin (In honorarium), and Adam Smiley (Alpharetta) were tapped into membership in the KEY society. 


The SILVER KEY - In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Barkley Forum in 1980, the Grand Championship was denoted by the SILVER KEY, a small sterling silver emblem duplicating the design of the prestigious Gold KEY awarded only to the KEY Coaches. The SILVER KEY indicates a Barkley Forum Champion and may be worn only by the first-place individual debaters in the Pelham Debates and Public Forum and the first-place winners in the Pelham Debates, Lincoln-Douglas, Extemporaneous Speaking, Original Oratory, Dramatic Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Program Oral Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Informative Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Public Forum and Congressional Debate. The KEY has no written marking visible to the public and is a piece of fine jewelry suitable for any occasion. While trophies will be granted as usual for the appropriate victories, the SILVER KEY belongs to the Barkley Forum victors of the future.

The Trophy KEY - Uniquely, the Barkley Forum trophy is a larger KEY cast from an antique brass KEY hidden in Georgia from Sherman's March to the Sea in 1864. This original KEY was discovered and donated to the Emory Barkley Forum by Susan and Thomas Glenn Pelham. Nashville attorney Larry David Woods, a distinguished alumnus of Emory and former President of the Forum as well as National President of the Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha debate fraternity, gave a grant to have KEYS cast each year from the original.