The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Documentary highlights Wiley College debate team

A special screening of The Real Great Debaters of Wiley College was shown in the Hughes-Trigg theater, followed by a debate from the SMU debate team on Monday night.

The film event was set up by AMS Pictures with SMU’s Division of Cinema-Television, the Association of Black Students, Program Council Films, Student Filmmakers Association and SMU’s Director of Forensics, Dr. Ben Voth.

Faculty from Wiley College was also in attendance.

AMS Pictures employee and SMU alum Tammy Nguyen Lee, Dr. Ben Voth, Vice President of Wiley College Dr. Joseph Morale and Wiley College forensics coach Dr. Shannon LaBove each introduced the movie.

Due to the recent election, Voth observed, “I think it’s really an appropriate time and place to see a film like this.” Furthermore, he asserted that SMU and Wiley were “kindred spirits,” because both schools are simultaneously reviving their speech and debate programs.

Next, Dr. Morale praised the movie for showing that Wiley College “is more than a basketball and football school,” and that it excels in academic areas as well.

Finally, Dr. LaBove added some humor to the evening when she described herself and her fellow debaters as nerds and related them to Steve Erkel. She described her entrance into Wiley College debate, stating, “I went into the most wonderful opportunity of my life.”

She then reflected on the importance of debate, which teaches, “not only to speak a little better, but to speak with advocacy.”

The movie chronicled the Wiley College debate team of 1935, which had to overcome racial obstacles to achieve victory. The debate team was first portrayed in the 2007 film The Great Debaters starring Denzel Washington.

While the Washington movie was nominated for a Golden Globe and got critical acclaim, it failed to portray an accurate image of the team and its accomplishments. For starters, the final debate was not against Harvard, as shown in the Hollywood movie, but against reigning debate champions from the University of Southern California.

Furthermore, the documentary gave a more in-depth look at the team members, detailing their lives with interviews from family and friends.

In the spirit of having one’s voice heard, four member of the SMU debate team debated on the issue that Wiley and USC fought in 1935: whether the United States should increase or reduce arms sales to foreign countries. Despite the departure of most of the audience after the movie, the debaters remained undeterred and delivered well-thought-out arguments.

First-years Alex Ehmke and Jordan Wondrack supported the affirmative. Alex argued that arms sales cement alliances and benefit in global networking. Wondrack supported his argument, stating, “In a world without the United States deciding who gets what weapons, it will be in the hands of worse countires.”

First-year Al Young and sophomore Victoria Sharwarko opposed the idea. Victoria cited instances where immoral leaders used American weapons and asserted, “the United States might as well have pulled the trigger itself.”

Al argued for escalation, stating that the more arms we give, the more, “we are fueling the need for weapons,” and, “inciting fear.”

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