King's Debate Society Competes in Greece at Worlds


This year the World Universities Debating Championship took the King’s Debate Society to the Aegean coastal city of Thessaloniki, Greece. Debaters Lucy Lefever ('16) and Jonah Ortiz ('17) traveled with debate coach Josiah Peterson to face off against hundreds of other universities. Peterson described it as "the Olympics of debate." Although Kings’ qualification for the championship was not a great feat in itself, Peterson stressed the importance of the organization’s attendance for the advancement of its mission statement, which is “to advocate truth in the marketplace of ideas,”; as a demonstration of its commitment and readiness to grow, and for the opportunity to engage at an unparalleled level of international competition. What better place to do so than Greece, the birthplace of rhetoric and philosophical argumentation, whose recent political and economic deterioration serve as fodder for international debate? The King’s Debate Society has now attended WUDC four times: in 2012 (Manila, Philippines), 2013 (Berlin, Germany), 2015 (Kuala Lumpur Malaysia), and 2016 (Thessaloniki, Greece). Regarding the team’s performance in Greece, Peterson says “with complete confidence and sincerity,” that King’s came out on top more often than not.  King’s was in contention to proceed to the finals until the last of nine preliminary rounds. “We had a team that was capable of competing at the highest levels in the World University Debate Championship,” and that only lost the opportunity to do so by a narrow margin. As a debater, Ortiz believed that they “never felt outmatched.” Their successful face-off against Harvard, the WUDC champions, In November, also testifies to the team’s capabilities.

Comprising nine preliminary rounds over 3 days, the tournament lead up to the finals for those who qualified. King's was only, and not easily, eliminated in the ninth and final preliminary round. By the second round, LeFever and Ortiz ranked in the top 25 percent, facing off against teams who would compete in the final round, including Cambridge, Yale, and Cornell. At the end of day two, the team was “averaging at least second place...the qualification for advancing into elimination rounds.”

View of the Aegean Sea from Mount Olympus

As for Greece itself, Peterson found it “interesting to see a country ravaged by the Eurozone and its own domestic policy...where the effects of politics gone awry are evident as you walk outside.” Correspondingly, Ortiz noted the presence of “vandalism virtually on every building,” including on ancient structures, and often as graffiti depicting swastikas, and anti-refugee and anti-Islamic sentiments. In spite of the darkness, the team encountered surprising hope and hospitality in their hosts as well as singular historical and cultural experience -- notably, Mount Olympus, the White Tower and (a highlight for Ortiz) gelato.

The King's Debate Society uses opportunities like this one to apply the values and principles that students learn from the King's Politics, Philosophy, and Economics core, "before a critical audience, and with fierce opposition." The organization welcomes students of every commitment level and background of experience, and is committed to cultivating these values through efficient public argumentation.

Correction (1/25/16, 3:39 p.m.): changed the location "the White Castle"  to "the White Tower." 

Correction (1/25/16, 5:39 p.m.): corrected the quotation "King’s came out on top more often than not" to "King's was never outclassed by the competition."