Speech and Debate Alumni

Since the National Speech & Debate Association was founded in 1925, we have enrolled more than 1.5 million members in all 50 states. Many of these members have risen to the pinnacle of their respective fields, including Supreme Court justices, media visionaries, Academy Award winners, and more. These are just a few of the many prominent faces of the NSDA. Over the years, the faces may change, but our commitment to changing lives never wavers.

Know of someone who should be on this list? Email us!

Samuel Alito
Samuel Alito

Class of 1968 | Trenton Hamilton East High School, New Jersey

Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1975, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He was nominated to the Court by President George W. Bush and has served on the court since January 31, 2006. Alito is considered one of the most conservative justices on the Court and has described himself as a “practical originalist.” Alito’s majority opinions in landmark cases include McDonald v. Chicago and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

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Read this letter written by Justice Alito about his time in debate, courtesy of Tara L. Tate.

Kevin Allocca
Kevin Allocca

Class of 2002 | St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Florida

Kevin Allocca is an author and technology professional and is currently the Head of Culture & Trends at YouTube, where he tracks popular video phenomena and manages trending content initiatives. He is YouTube’s expert on the intersection of web video and global culture, and is often cited in the press on subjects of virality, popularity, and breaking news. His TED Talk on “Why Videos Go Viral” has been watched more than two million times, and he has been a keynote speaker at festivals and industry events all over the world. His book Videocracy, which explores YouTube’s most interesting trends and the impact of video on our culture, was published by Bloomsbury in January 2018. He is an alumnus of Boston College and lives and works in New York City.

Kristen Stoltis Anderson
Kristen Soltis Anderson

Class of 2002 | Cypress Creek High School, Florida

Kristen Soltis Anderson is author of The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America (And How Republicans Can Keep Up). She is a political analyst for ABC News and a columnist at The Washington Examiner. She is co-founder of Echelon Insights, an opinion research and data analytics firm, and she co-hosts the bipartisan polling podcast The Pollsters.

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Anthony Barrows
Anthony Barrows

Class of 1996 | Boston Latin School, Massachusetts

Anthony Barrows is a Managing Director at the behavioral economics firm ideas42 where he focuses on domestic poverty, local government, post-secondary education, and civic engagement. Anthony previously worked more than ten years in child welfare, spanning positions in direct service, supervision, training, advocacy, project management, and system improvement. Anthony holds a BA in Philosophy and Art from UMass Boston, an MFA in Printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute, and an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where he was a Gleitsman Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. Anthony competed in both speech and debate events in high school and remembers his time fondly.

IN HIS WORDS | “Joining the debate team in high school was a lifesaver. Amid a lot of turmoil at school and at home, speech and debate gave me a safe space that was also an outlet for creativity and critical thought I may not have gotten otherwise. And now, more than 20 years after graduating high school, I still use the research and rhetorical skills I honed in my teens, and maintain connections to the network I developed. I count myself lucky to be a member of this community!”

Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman

T. L. Hanna High School, South Carolina

Chadwick Boseman is known for portraying Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013), James Brown in Get on Up (2014), T’Challa/Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017). He also had roles in the television series Lincoln Heights (2008) and Persons Unknown (2010), and the films The Express (2008) and Draft Day (2014). He will reprise his role as Black Panther in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, both scheduled for release in 2018. Boseman placed eighth in Original Oratory at the 1995 National Tournament.

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Yvanna Cancela
Yvanna Cancela

Class of 2006 | Carrollton School Of The Sacred Heart, Florida

Yvanna Cancela is the first Latina state senator in Nevada and serves as the Executive Director of the Immigrant Workers Citizenship Project, which helps individuals apply to become a citizen free of charge. Previously, she was the political director of Nevada’s largest immigrant organization, the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas. In high school, Yvanna competed in Policy Debate at Carrollton School Of The Sacred Heart.

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Nancy Cartwright
Nancy Cartwright

Class of 1976 | Fairmont West High School, Ohio

As a Primetime Emmy and Annie Award winning actress, Nancy is best known as the voice of spiky-headed underachiever Bart Simpson, but also gives voice to Ralph Wiggum, Nelson Muntz, Rod Flanders, Maggie Simpson, DataBase and Kearney in the town of Springfield on Fox’s 28-year-iconic hit, The Simpsons. It is the longest running scripted TV series in history—starting its 29th year in production. In her 36-year career at the microphone, Nancy has lent her voice to hundreds of other award-winning animated series, including Rugrats (Chuckie); Kim Possible (Rufus the Naked Mole Rat); Richie Rich (Gloria); Animaniacs (Mindy); The Replacements (Todd) as well as Pinky and the Brain; The Critic; God, The Devil and Bob; Mike, Lu & Og; and Chuck Jones’ final work, Timberwolf. In high school, Nancy performed Poetry and Prose and says winning Humorous Interpretation was her first claim to fame.

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Joaquin Castro
Joaquín Castro

Thomas Jefferson High School, Texas

Joaquín Castro is an American Democratic politician who has served in the United States House of Representatives for Texas’s 20th congressional district since 2013. The district includes just over half of his native San Antonio, Texas, as well as some of its nearby suburbs. Joaquín graduated with honors from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and communications and earned a Juris Doctor with his twin brother at Harvard Law School. From 2003 to 2013, Castro was a member of the Texas House of Representatives for District 125. While in the Texas state legislature, Castro served as vice-chair of the Higher Education Committee and was a member of the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

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Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert

Class of 1982 | The Porter-Gaud School, South Carolina

Stephen Colbert is a comedian, television host, actor, and writer. He is best known for hosting the satirical Comedy Central program The Colbert Report from 2005 to 2014. The series became one of Comedy Central’s highest-rated series, earning Colbert an invitation to perform as featured entertainer at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in 2006. After ending The Colbert Report, he was hired in 2015 to succeed retiring David Letterman as host of The Late Show on CBS. Colbert has won nine Primetime Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Peabody Awards. Colbert was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2006 and 2012. His book, I Am America (And So Can You!), was #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2007.

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Chris Colfer
Chris Colfer

Class of 2008 | Clovis East High School, California

Chris Colfer is an American Golden Globe Award winning actor, singer, and #1 New York Times Bestselling writer. He gained international recognition for his portrayal of Kurt Hummel on the hit television singing series Glee (2009-2015). Colfer’s portrayal of Kurt has received critical praise for which he has been the recipient of several awards, including Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards. Colfer wrote, starred in, produced, and novelized his first film, Struck by Lightning, which debuted at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. He is also a New York Times number-one bestselling author of The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, the first novel in his middle-grade reader series. Colfer competed in Dramatic Interp, Humorous Interp, and Expository.

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Brittney Cooper
Brittney Cooper

Class of 1998 | Ruston High School, Louisiana

Brittney Cooper is a writer, teacher, and public speaker. Brittney is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University. She is co-founder of the popular Crunk Feminist Collective blog, a contributing writer for Cosmopolitan.com, and a former contributor to Salon.com. Her cultural commentary has been featured on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry, Al Jazeera’s Third Rail, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, PBS, Ebony.com, Essence.com, TheRoot.com, and TED.com. Dr. Cooper is co-editor of The Crunk Feminist Collection (The Feminist Press, 2017). She is author of Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women and the forthcoming Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower. Brittney competed in both speech and debate events in high school.

IN HER WORDS | “The debate team was the first place I fit, the first place that my loud-mouth, yet slightly introverted Black girl self, felt included, seen, and sure of myself. I became a professor because I wanted to engage in the kinds of intellectual inquiry, and indeed to examine the kinds of critical thought—feminism and critical race theory—that I first learned to love while cutting cards and writing frontlines for Policy Debate.”

David Coté
David Coté

Class of 1997 | Bangor High School, Maine

David J. Coté is the President of the Board of Directors for The Summit Project (TSP) and the Founder of the program. He grew up in Bangor and after graduating from Bangor High School, he attended the United States Naval Academy where he was commissioned a Marine Corps Officer. He has served for more than 17 years and continues to drill in the Reserves. There is no way Dave could have imagined the far-reaching and life-changing impact of TSP on others when he accepted an invitation by his Navy SEAL friends to hike Mt. Whitney (elevation 14,505 feet above sea level) in California over Labor Day weekend in 2012. Afterward, he decided to establish a similar activity back to his home state to honor Maine’s fallen heroes. From that transformative hike with those SEALs, he is honored and privileged to lead TSP with an extraordinary team of highly dedicated volunteers and families across Maine who want nothing more than to ensure that Maine heroes are not forgotten. Starting in the fall of 2017, Dave is back in school earning an MBA at Boston College using his post 9/11 GI bill benefits.

Viet Dihn
Viet Dihn

Fullerton High School, California

Viet Dinh is a lawyer and a conservative legal scholar who served as an Assistant Attorney General of the United States from 2001 to 2003, under the presidency of George W. Bush. Born in Saigon, in the former South Vietnam, he was the chief architect of the USA PATRIOT Act and is a former member of the Board of Directors of News Corporation.

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Pintip Dunn
Pintip Dunn

Class of 1995 | Parsons High School, Kansas

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel, Forget Tomorrow, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. It is also a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Japanese Sakura Medal, the MASL Truman Award, and the Tome Society It list. In addition, The Darkest Lie was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her books have been translated into four languages, and her other titles include Remember Yesterday, Seize Today, Girl on the Verge, and the upcoming Star-Crossed and Malice.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Dr. Mike Edmonds
Dr. Mike Edmonds

Class of 1980 | Northwest High School, Tennessee

Dr. Mike Edmonds is the Dean of Students and Vice President of Student life at Colorado College. He also serves as Chair of the Board at Memorial Hospital of South Bend and was previously the Assistant Dean of Students at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Edmonds began his forensic career as a seventh-grader in Clarksville, Tennessee, and majored in theater and speech at the University of Mississippi. He has been elected by the Barkley KEY Society, one of the nation’s most prestigious forensic educators honor societies, as an honorary KEY coach. Dr. Edmonds competed in Interp, Congressional Debate, and Extemp and returns to judge at the National Tournament every year.

To learn more, check out this article published in the Winter 2017 issue of Rostrum magazine.

Zac Efron
Zac Efron

Class of 2006 | Arroyo Grande High School, California

Zachary David Alexander Efron is an American actor and singer. He began acting professionally in the early 2000s, and rose to prominence in the late 2000s for his leading role in the High School Musical franchise (2006–2008). During this time, he also starred in the musical film Hairspray (2007) and the comedy film 17 Again (2009). He has since appeared in films like New Year’s Eve (2011), The Lucky One (2012), Neighbors (2014), Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016), and Baywatch (2017).

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Billy Eichner
Billy Eichner

Class of 1996 | Stuyvesant High School, New York

Billy Eichner is an American comedian, actor, writer, and television personality. He is the star, executive producer, and creator of Funny Or Die’s Billy on the Street, a comedy game show that airs on truTV. Eichner was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Game Show Host” in 2013. He is also known for playing Craig Middlebrooks on the sitcom Parks and Recreation. Eichner currently stars in the Hulu original series Difficult People alongside Julie Klausner and is involved in the seventh season of American Horror Story, which premiered September 5, 2017. Eichner competed in speech events at Stuyvesant High School.

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Josh Gad
Josh Gad

Class of 1999 | NSU University School, Florida

Joshua Ilan Gad is an actor, comedian, and singer. He is best known for voicing Olaf in Frozen, playing Elder Arnold Cunningham in the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, and starring as LeFou in the live-action musical film Beauty and the Beast.

Gad attended NSU University School, graduating in 1999. While there, he won the NSDA national championship in Original Oratory in 1998, and for Humorous Interpretation and Original Oratory in 1999.

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Watch Josh perform his winning oration from 1998!

Austan Goolsbee
Austan Goolsbee

Class of 1987 | Milton Academy, Massachusetts

Austan D. Goolsbee is the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He previously served in Washington as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and a member of the President Obama’s cabinet. His research has earned him recognition as a Fulbright Scholar and an Alfred P. Sloan fellow. Goolsbee serves on the Economic Advisory Panel to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and has previously served on the Panel of Economic Advisors to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. Census Advisory Commission and as a special consultant for Internet Policy to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. As a high school student, Goolsbee won the NSDA national championship in International Extemporaneous Speaking (IX) in 1987.

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Dr. Stephanie Jenkins
Dr. Stephanie Jenkins

Class of 1999 | Bangor High School, Maine

Dr. Stephanie Jenkins is a researcher, teacher, and activist. Dr. Jenkins is Assistant Professor in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion at Oregon State University. She is the co-founder and former co-director of the Phronesis Lab for Engaged Ethics, as well as the current Director of the OSU Disability Network. In addition to publishing scholarly articles in moral philosophy, she is co-editing the forthcoming book, Cripping Critical Animal Studies. Nicknamed the “Professor of Phish,” Dr. Jenkins designed and teaches the “Philosophy School of Phish,” a for-credit college course that uses the rock band as a case study for exploring the Philosophy of Art and Music. The course was featured in this Billboard Magazine article. She discusses the role her debate experience plays in her pedagogical methods in this interview with Engaged Philosophy.

Dr. Jenkins grew up in Bangor, Maine. At Bangor High School, she competed in both speech and debate events. She was the 1999 Maine Lincoln-Douglas Debate champion, a two-time attendee of NFL Nationals, and the first Maine debater to qualify for and attend the Tournament of Champions. Dr. Jenkins graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Emory University with a B.A. in Philosophy. While in college, she competed in Policy Debate and volunteered for the Urban Debate League as a member of the Barkley Forum. Dr. Jenkins received her M.A. in Philosophy and dual Ph.D. in Philosophy and Women’s Studies from the Pennsylvania State University.

IN HER WORDS | “Participating in Lincoln-Douglas and Policy Debate was my most significant educational experience. I use the speaking, critical thinking, organization, and research skills I learned in debate every day. Debate is where I found confidence in my intellectual voice and discovered that ideas matter.”

Cherry Jones
Cherry Jones

Henry County High School, Tennessee

Cherry Jones is a five-time Tony Award nominee for her work on Broadway. She won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the 1995 revival of The Heiress and for the 2005 original production of Doubt. She won the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Allison Taylor on the FOX television series 24. She has also won three Drama Desk Awards. Cherry Jones became the first out lesbian to win a Tony Award when she was chosen as Best Actress in 1995. She was a national runner up in Dramatic Interpretation at the National Tournament. Cherry Jones was coached by legendary Hall of Fame coach Ruby Krider, who helped her get into the acting program at Carnegie Melon University.

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Jeff Joseph
Jeff Joseph

Class of 1990 | Jesuit High School, Florida

Jeff Joseph is a graduate of the University of Denver, College of Law. He is on the advisory council of the Federal Bar Association Immigration Law Section and is Vice President of the Colorado Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Mr. Joseph currently serves on the national liaison committee between U.S. Citizenship and the United States Department of Labor. In 2004, he received the Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Mr. Joseph was named Immigration Lawyer of the Year in the USA in 2016 from Corporate LiveWire. Joseph Law Firm, P.C. has also been ranked as a Tier 1 law firm in the field of Immigration Law by U.S. News and World Reports. Mr. Joseph has represented clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the U.S. District Courts, and the Circuit Courts of Appeals, and has published several opinions in those courts. He is an adjunct professor of immigration law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He currently serves as Secretary of the Joseph Family Foundation and as assistant debate coach for Kent Denver High School.

Shelley Long
Shelley Long

Class of 1967 | South Side High School, Indiana

Shelley Long is an actress best known for her role as Diane Chambers on the sitcom Cheers. She received five Emmy nominations for the role, winning in 1983 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, as well as two Golden Globe Awards for the role. Long reprised her role as Diane Chambers in four episodes of the spinoff Frasier, for which she received an additional guest star Emmy nomination. In 2009, she began playing a recurring role as DeDe Pritchett on the ABC comedy series Modern Family. Shelley Long was a national champion in Original Oratory.

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Jon Lovett
Jon Lovett

Class of 2000 | Syosset High School, New York

Jon Lovett is an American screenwriter, speechwriter, television producer, and podcaster. In 2005, Lovett was hired to write speeches for Hilary Clinton through her 2008 presidential campaign. When Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary contest, Lovett won an anonymous contest to write speeches for President Barack Obama in the White House. Lovett wrote speeches in the Obama administration for three years, including policy speeches on financial reform and don’t ask, don’t tell, as well as remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. After working as a speechwriter, Lovett produced The Newsroom and co-created 1600 Penn. He is a founder of Crooked Media, hosts the podcast Lovett or Leave It, and co-hosts the podcast Pod Save America.

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Kayleigh McEnany
Kayleigh McEnany

Class of 2006 | Academy of the Holy Names, Florida

Kayleigh McEnany is an American political commentator and writer. After graduating from Georgetown University, McEnany was a producer on Mike Huckabee’s TV show. She interned for several politicians, including Tom Gallagher, Adam Putnam, and George W. Bush, for Bush’s 2004 campaign and in the White House Office of Communications in the Media Affairs department. She is a former CNN contributor and in 2017, she was appointed national Spokesperson for the Republican National Committee.

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Idina Menzel
Idina Menzel

Syosset High School, New York

Idina Menzel rose to prominence when she originated the role of Maureen Johnson in the Broadway musical Rent. Her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination in 1996. She reprised the role in the musical’s 2005 film adaptation. In 2003, Menzel originated the role of Elphaba in the Broadway musical Wicked, a performance for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Menzel returned to Broadway as Elizabeth Vaughan in the 2014 musical If/Then, which earned her a third Tony Award nomination. Additionally, Menzel is known for being the voice of Queen Elsa in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ hit 2013 musical film Frozen, in which she sang the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning song “Let It Go.” The song reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making Menzel the first Tony Award-winning actress to reach the top 10.

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Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng

Class of 1998 | Shaker Heights High School, Ohio

Celeste Ng is an American author. Her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, has won multiple awards, was a New York Times bestseller, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and appeared on the Best Book of the Year lists of more than a dozen outlets. Her short story, Girls at Play, won a Pushcart Prize in 2012. Ng’s second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was released September 12, 2017, and tells the story of two families in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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Roberto Orci
Roberto Orci

Spring Woods High School, Texas

Filmmaker Roberto Orci is a prolific writer and producer across both film and TV. Roberto is the billion dollar filmmaker behind some of the decade’s biggest films including Mission: Impossible III, Eagle Eye, Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Cowboys and Aliens, and the Star Trek films. He also executive produced the hit romantic comedy The Proposal. His writing and producing credits have grossed more than $4 billion worldwide. Roberto competed in Policy Debate in high school.

IN HIS WORDS | “I learned how to think at Spring Woods debate. I learned how to speak, how to find my voice, and how to be myself. Debate teachers are more than teachers.”

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Jared Padalecki
Jared Padalecki

Class of 2000 | James Madison High School, Texas

Jared Padalecki is an actor best known for his role as Sam Winchesteron on Supernatural. He grew up in Texas and rose to fame in the early 2000s after appearing on the television series Gilmore Girls as well as in such films as New York Minute and House of Wax. Padalecki and his partner were champions in Duo Interpretation at the 1998 National Tournament.

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Walter Paul
Walter Paul

Class of 2014 | Creighton Preparatory School, Nebraska

Walter N. Paul is a senior at Carleton College in Minnesota where he studies International Relations and Arabic and serves as the student body president. He also created a non-profit organization called Engaging Voice, which establishes speech and debate programs at under-resourced middle schools. Walter was named the William Woods Tate, Jr., National Student of the Year by the National Speech & Debate Association in 2014.

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt

Class of 1982 | Kickapoo High School, Missouri

William Bradley Pitt (born December 18, 1963) is an American actor and producer. He has received multiple awards and nominations including an Academy Award as producer under his own company Plan B Entertainment. Pitt is best known for his performances in Fight Club, Ocean’s Eleven, Troy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and The Big Short.

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Robert Putnam
Robert Putnam

Class of 1959 | Port Clinton High School, Ohio

Robert David Putnam is an American political scientist and professor of Public Policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government. Putnam developed the influential two-level game theory that assumes international agreements will only be successfully brokered if they also result in domestic benefits. His most famous (and controversial) work, Bowling Alone, argues that the United States has undergone an unprecedented collapse in civic, social, associational, and political life (social capital) since the 1960s, with serious negative consequences. In 2010, he co-published an article in which he noted that the trend had moved the other way; he continued to advocate a push towards more social capital but he felt his famous thesis (“Americans are now bowling alone”) was no longer true. In March 2015, he published a book called Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis that looked at issues of inequality of opportunity in the U.S.

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Nandini Ramakrishnan
Nandini Ramakrishnan

Class of 2009 | Hinsdale Central High School, Illinois

Nandini Ramakrishnan is a Global Market Strategist in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Global Market Insights Strategy Team, based in London. She co-authors the Guide to the Markets and other key Market Insights publications relating to macroeconomic and market dynamics. She provides research-driven outlooks for retail and institutional clients based in the UK, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Nandini speaks frequently on media outlets (BBC, CNBC, Bloomberg, Sky, CNN) and writes a weekly column for the Financial Times Adviser on various investment and macroeconomic topics. Nandini holds a degree in Economics from the University of Chicago and has previously worked in asset-backed debt securities structuring in the J.P. Morgan Investment Bank in the U.S. She has been named a Rising Star in We Are the City’s 2017 Investment Management category, an award sponsored by The Sunday Times, and named a 2017 Economic Analyst of the Year by Investment Week.

Janet Reno
Janet Reno

Coral Gables High School, Florida

Janet Wood Reno (July 21, 1938 – November 7, 2016) served as the Attorney General of the United States from 1993 until 2001. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on February 11, 1993, and confirmed on March 11, 1993. She was the first woman to serve as Attorney General and the second-longest serving Attorney General in U.S. history, after William Wirt. Reno was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and attended Coral Gables High School. After leaving to attend Cornell University and Harvard Law School, she returned to Miami where she started her career at private law firms. Her first foray into government was as a staff member for the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives. She then worked for the Dade County State Attorney’s Office before returning to private practice. She was elected to the Office of State Attorney five times.

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Michael Reszler
Michael Reszler

Class of 1987 | Aberdeen Central High School, South Dakota

Michael Reszler is the Chief Digital Officer and Sr. Vice President of Strategy and Experimentation at American Public Media Group. Mike has been involved with the creation of the digital news industry since 1996. In that time, he won numerous awards and been involved with and overseen projects that won the Pulitzer, Emmy, and Edward R. Murrow Excellence Award to name a few. He has published and spoken widely on the intersection technology, audiences, and journalism. He was the former Director of Digital News for Knight Ridder where he helped to coordinate the digital newsrooms of 50 different news operations across the country. He hold a Master’s Degree and is A.B.D. from the Claremont Graduate School, where he was a Mellow Scholar and Fellow. For Mike, the single most important educational experience of his life was high school speech and debate.

Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd

Class of 1987 | Shawnee Mission West High School, Kansas

Paul Stephen Rudd is an American actor, comedian, writer, and producer. He is known for his starring roles in the films The Cider House Rules (1999) and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), the comedy films Clueless (1995), Wet Hot American Summer(2001), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), The 40-Year-Old Virgin
(2005), Knocked Up (2007), Role Models (2008), I Love You, Man (2009), Dinner for Schmucks (2010), Our Idiot Brother (2011), Wanderlust (2012), This Is 40 (2012), and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), and for playing the superhero Ant-Man in Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man (2015) and Captain America: Civil War (2016).

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Terri Sewell
Terri Sewell

Class of 1982 | Selma High School, Alabama

Terri A. Sewell is an American politician, elected in 2010 as the U.S. Representative for Alabama’s 7th congressional district. A native of Selma, Sewell was the first black valedictorian of Selma High School, where she was coached by the great William Woods Tate, Jr. She is a graduate of Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University and is a public finance attorney. Sewell is a member of the Democratic Party and the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama.

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John Sexton
John Sexton

Class of 1959 | Brooklyn Preparatory School, New York

John Edward Sexton is a lawyer and academic. From 1961 to 1975, Sexton coached the debate team at St. Brendan’s High School, a Catholic girls’ school in Brooklyn, New York, leading the team to five national championships and numerous invitational titles. He was named to the National Speech & Debate Association Hall of Fame in 2003. Still an avid proponent of interscholastic debate, he is chairman of the board of Associated Leaders of Urban Debate (ALOUD), which seeks to bring debate activities to underserved communities in America’s urban areas. Sexton served as the 15th President of New York University, from 2002 to 2015. From 1988 to 2002, he served as Dean of the NYU School of Law, during which time NYU became one of the top five law schools in the country according to U.S. News and World Report. From 2003 to 2007, he was the Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; in 2006, he served as chair of the Federal Reserve System’s Council of Chairs.

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Joe Shapiro
Joe Shapiro

Class of 1999 | Beaverton High School, Oregon

Joseph Shapiro is Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Yale University. He is also a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a staff member of the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics. He researches environmental and energy economics, and specifically investigates how globalization affects the environment, the potential of adaptation to climate change, and the costs and benefits of water pollution regulation like the U.S. Clean Water Act. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT, Master’s degrees from Oxford and LSE as a Marshall Scholar, and a BA from Stanford. He was named the national champion in Impromptu Speaking in 1999.

IN HIS WORDS | “I did Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Impromptu Speaking. I use skills from speech and debate practically every day in researching and writing papers, presenting work, and teaching students.”

Ben Silbermann
Ben Silbermann

Class of 1999 | Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Iowa

Ben Silbermann is an internet entrepreneur who is the co-founder and CEO of Pinterest, a virtual pinboard that lets users organize images, links, recipes, and other items. The website allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections called ‘pinboards.’ Examples include events, interests, hobbies, and more. Users can browse other pinboards for inspiration, ‘re-pin’ images to their own collections, and/or ‘like’ photos. Silberman competed in both speech and debate and attended the National Tournament.

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Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor

Class of 1972 | Cardinal Spellman High School, New York

Sonia Sotomayor is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving since August 2009. She has the distinction of being its first justice of Hispanic heritage, the first Latina, its third female justice, and its twelfth Roman Catholic justice. Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979, where she was an editor at the Yale Law Journal. Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New Yorkby President George H. W. Bush in 1991; confirmation followed in 1992. In 1997, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court following the retirement of Justice David Souter.

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Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen

Class of 1967 | Freehold Borough High School, New Jersey

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen is a singer-songwriter, known for his work with the E Street Band. Nicknamed “The Boss,” he is widely known for his brand of poetic lyrics and Americana. His most successful studio albums, Born to Run (1975) and Born in the U.S.A. (1984) find pleasures in the struggles of daily American life. He has sold more than 120 million records worldwide and more than 64 million records in the United States, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. He has earned numerous awards for his work, including 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award as well as being inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1999. In 2009, Springsteen was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, in 2013 was named MusiCares person of the year, and in 2016 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Kenan Thompson
Kenan Thompson

Class of 1996 | Woodward Academy, Georgia

Kenan Thompson is known for his work as a cast member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, where he is the longest serving cast member in the show’s history. In his teenage years, he was an original cast member of Nickelodeon’s sketch comedy series All That. Thompson is also known for his roles as Kenan Rockmore in the sitcom Kenan & Kel, Russ Tyler in The Mighty Ducks franchise, Dexter Reed in the film Good Burger, and Fat Albert as the title character. Thompson is the current host of TeenNick’s 1990s programming block, The ’90s Are All That.

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Stephen Tobolowsky
Stephen Tobolowsky

Justin F. Kimball High School, Texas

Stephen Harold Tobolowsky is a character actor, author, and musician. Tobolowsky has appeared in more than 200 films plus many television projects. He is known for film roles such as annoying insurance agent Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day and amnesiac Sammy Jankis in Christopher Nolan’s Memento, as well as such television characters as Commissioner Hugo Jarry (Deadwood), Bob Bishop (Heroes), Sandy Ryerson (Glee), Stu Beggs (Californication), and Action Jack Barker (Silicon Valley).

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Watch Stephen speak about celebrating National Speech and Debate Education Day!

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren

Class of 1966 | Northwest Classen High School, Oklahoma

Elizabeth Ann Warren is an academic and politician. She is senior United States Senator from Massachusetts. Warren was formerly a professor of law and taught at the University of Texas School of Law, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and most recently at Harvard Law School. A prominent scholar specializing in bankruptcy law, Warren was among the most cited in the field of commercial law before starting her political career. Warren is a leading figure in the Democratic Party and is popular among American progressives.

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Cory Williams
Cory Williams

Class of 2010 | Hattiesburg High School, Mississippi

Decorian “Cory” Williams graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2015 with a degree in Health Care Public Policy. He currently works as a fundraising consultant for non-profit organizations, where he makes strategic development recommendations and helps them build and grow their major gift and annual giving campaigns. Cory continues to work with students at his alma mater, Hattiesburg High School in Mississippi. Cory was named the William Woods Tate, Jr., National Student of the Year by the National Speech & Debate Association in 2010.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

Class of 1971 | East Nashville High School, Tennessee

Oprah Winfrey is a media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, publisher, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Dubbed the “Queen of All Media,” she has been ranked the richest African American and the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. In 2013, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

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BD Wong
BD Wong

Class of 1978 | Lincoln High School, California

Bradley Darryl “BD” Wong made his Broadway debut in M. Butterfly. He is the only actor to be honored with the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Clarence Derwent Award, and Theater World Award for the same performance. He is now starring in the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures.

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