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.
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Class of 1990 | Apple Valley High School, Minnesota
Reuben Advani is a business executive and author. Currently, Mr. Advani serves as the CEO of The Global STEM Alliance, an initiative focused on improving the quality of STEM education and increasing access to it. Mr. Advani authored the successful business books, The Wall Street MBA, published by McGraw-Hill, and Financial Freedom, published by Apress. He has been featured in prominent magazines including Investor’s Business Daily and U.S. News & World Report. Mr. Advani holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He also serves as an adjunct professor of finance at a number of universities.
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.
Read this letter written by Justice Alito about his time in debate, courtesy of Tara L. Tate.
Class of 2014 | Sumner Academy, Kansas
Kalen Allen attends Temple University and majors in theater and film. He is well-known for his “Kalen Reacts” YouTube videos critiquing online recipes. After a visit to The Ellen Degeneres Show in 2017, Kalen was hired as creator at Ellentube.
IN HIS WORDS | “The best part about competing in speech and debate was being able to tell the stories I wanted to tell. But it was the freedom of expression and creativity in performing those pieces on a competitive level that strengthened my artistry while providing discipline.”
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 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.
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!”
Class of 1985 | Loyola High School, Minnesota
John Bessler is an Associate Professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, and of counsel to the Minneapolis law firm of Berens & Miller, P.A. He previously taught a death penalty seminar at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he is currently a visiting scholar at the Human Rights Center. Professor Bessler has written eight books, including multiple books on the subject of capital punishment. The Death Penalty as Torture: From the Dark Ages to Abolition, published in 2017, was the recipient of the Bronze Medal in the World History category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Class of 1992 | Greendale High School, Wisconsin
Michael is the founder and CEO of Fusion PPT, one of the fastest growing technology firms in the country and a best place to work in the Washington, D.C. area. Prior to founding Fusion PPT, Michael was with Booz Allen Hamilton and served on the academic staff of the University of Wisconsin Law School. As one of the industry’s leading Information Technology experts, Michael has assisted some of the largest organizations across the globe utilize IT to increase efficiency, reduce infrastructure costs, and scale to meet customer needs. Michael has been a contributing technology editor and author at InformationWeek and Network Computing magazines with more than 60 published articles, and is the author of the book Federal Cloud Computing. Michael earned a Master’s of Science in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University and dual Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Afro-American History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization Sharon Sharko Debate Foundation, which supports supplemental funding to public high school debate organizations.
IN HIS WORDS | “Debate is a critical life skill that not only enables you to communicate well but also helps you think through and analyze complex problems. It is a skill that everyone can learn with hard work and dedication.”
Alexander Ramsey High School, Minnesota
Rebecca Blank is the current chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former Acting United States Secretary of Commerce. Blank was serving as United States Deputy Secretary of Commerce when she was named to lead the United States Department of Commerce as Acting Secretary on June 11, 2012. A native of Missouri, Blank is a summa cum laude graduate in economics from the University of Minnesota and holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Blank was the national champion in Girls’ Extemporaneous Speaking in 1973, a fact that was included in her nomination to be Deputy Secretary of Commerce.
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.
Class of 2004 | Moorhead High School, Minnesota
Preston Boyd has been a principal actor in two national Broadway tours: in Jersey Boys as Bob Gaudio and as The Monster in The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein. He has performed in regional theatre productions of Of Mice and Men, Les Miserables, Singin’ in the Rain, Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, Oliver, Peter Pan, and Aida. He performed in Working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Preston is excited to play the role of Artie Green and join Glenn Close in the Broadway musical revival of Sunset Boulevard.
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.
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.
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.
Frank G. Clement
Class of 1937 | Dickson County High School, Tennessee
Frank G. Clement was an American lawyer and politician who served as Governor of Tennessee from 1953 to 1959 and from 1963 to 1967. His 10 years in office was the longest of any of the state’s 20th century governors. Clement owed much of his rapid political rise to his ability to deliver rousing, mesmerizing speeches. As governor, Clement oversaw the state’s economic transformation from a predominantly agricultural state to an industrial state. He increased funding for education and mental health and was the first Southern governor to veto a segregation bill. In 1956, he dispatched the National Guard to disperse a crowd attempting to prevent integration at Clinton High School.
IN HIS WORDS | “I cannot think of anyone in the country who owes more to his participation in the National Forensic League events than I do.”
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
William J. Crowe Jr.
Class of 1940 | Oklahoma City-Classen High School, Oklahoma
William James Crowe Jr. was a United States Navy admiral who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In 1993, President Clinton named Crowe chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Then in 1994, President Clinton appointed Crowe the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He served in that capacity until 1997. Following his retirement from the Navy, Crowe was awarded a 2000 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor.
IN HIS WORDS | “Debate was the single most important activity I participated in at the Naval Academy.”
Class of 1967 | Speedway High School, Indiana
Joyce DeWitt is an American actress. From 1977 to 1983, Dewitt played Janet Wood on the ABC sitcom Three’s Company, which tells the story of Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt), Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), and Jack Tripper (John Ritter) who all platonically live together in an apartment. The show raked in record ratings, breaking barriers at the time as the highest-rated midseason show ever broadcast on network television.
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.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School, Pennsylvania
Brian Domitrovic is an author and professor. In 1985, Domitrovic placed second in Congressional Debate at the National Tournament. Domitrovic earned his bachelor’s degree at Columbia University, studying history and mathematics. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, where he also did graduate work in the department of economics. Domitrovic is the Department Chair and Professor of History at Sam Houston State University. In his Forbes Magazine column “Past & Present,” he writes about how history can help illuminate the economic challenges we face today, and how very often historical sources do validate free-market economics. Domitrovic is the author of Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply-Side Movement and Restored American Prosperity (2014) and co-authored JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity (2016) with White House Economic Advisor Lawrence Kudlow.
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
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.
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).
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.
Class of 1971 | Joseph A. Craig High School, Wisconsin
Russ Feingold is an American lawyer and politician from Wisconsin. He served as a democratic member of the U.S. Senate from 1993-2011. During his time in the U.S. Senate, Feingold gained a reputation as a political maverick with an independent streak. Previously, he was a Wisconsin State Senator in the 27th district. Feingold received the John F. Kennedy Profit in Courage Award for cosponsoring the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which is a piece of campaign finance reform legislation. In 2013, he was selected by Secretary of State John Kerry to serve as a special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa.
Robert J. Feldhake
Class of 1972 | Maine Township East High School, Illinois
Robert J. Feldhake is the President of The Feldhake Law Firm, APC. He specializes in civil litigation, insurance, public agency representation, business dispute resolution, and alternative dispute resolution. In 2015, he received the Martindale Hubbell Top-Rated Lawyer Award. He has also received the Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating every year since 2013.
Robert won the Illinois State Debate Championship in 1972 for Maine Township East High School. As a collegiate debater for Augustana College, he was the top speaker of the National Debate Tournament.
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.
Watch Josh perform his winning oration from 1998!
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.
Class of 1955 | Miami Carol City High School, Florida
Daniel Robert Graham is an American politician and author. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the 38th governor of Florida from 1979 to 1987 and a United States Senator from 1987 to 2005. Graham helped found the Democratic Leadership Council and eventually became Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Graham served as co-chair of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and as a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and the CIA External Advisory Board. He works at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Florida. He also served as Chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD proliferation and terrorism. Through the WMD policy center he advocates for the recommendations in the Commission’s report, “World at Risk.” In 2011, Graham published his first novel, the thriller The Keys to the Kingdom. He has also written three nonfiction books: Workdays: Finding Florida on the Job, Intelligence Matters, and America: The Owner’s Manual.
Class of 2013 | Moorhead High School, Minnesota
Nina Grollman is an American actress and singer. She began acting in second grade and later attended Juilliard School in New York City, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting degree. Grollman appeared in the Broadway revival of The Iceman Cometh starring Denzel Washington.
Class of 2001 | Moorhead High School, Minnesota
Becky Gulsvig is an American actress, singer, and dancer. Gulsvig’s first role was that of Wendy in a touring production of Peter Pan. She has performed on Broadway in Hairspray as Amber Von Tussle and originated the role of Leilani in the Broadway production of Legally Blonde the Musical, understudying the roles of Elle Woods, Serena, and Margot. She starred as Elle Woods in the North American national tour of Legally Blonde the Musical and was nominated for the 2009 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Non-Resident Production. Gulsvig performed the song “So Much Better” live at the 2009 Tony Awards ceremony. In 2015, Gulsvig played Cynthia Weil in the U.S. national tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. She returned to Broadway in 2010 as Patty in School of Rock.
IN HER WORDS | “Speech played such a huge role in making me who I am today. On and off the stage I am a better person and performer because of the creativity and confidence that speech gave me. I am so thankful for Rebecca Meyer-Larson and my Moorhead Senior High School speech experience!”
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.”
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.
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.
Class of 1987 | Loyola Academy, Illinois
Neal Kumar Katyal is a partner at Hogan Lovells, the Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of National Security Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, and a former Acting Solicitor General for the United States. In 2017, he presented his 35th Supreme Court argument, breaking Thurgood Marshall’s 50-year-old record to become the minority lawyer with the most oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.
He served as Vice President Al Gore’s co-counsel in Bush v. Gore 2000. He was lead counsel for the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld 2006. The U.S. Justice Department bestowed its highest honor for a civilian to him, the Edmund Randolph Award.
He was a successful high school debater for Loyola Academy (IL) and Dartmouth College (NH).
Class of 2007 | Palo Verde High School, Nevada
Jessica Kurr is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University. She also serves as an affiliate with the Penn State President’s Commission on LGBTQ Equity. She was the second editor for the volume Speech and Debate as Civic Education (Penn State Press, 2017), which received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Communication Association. She currently researches political rhetoric, specifically how debates unfold over economic, political, and LGBTQ issues. Her work has won awards and been supported by the American Society for the History of Rhetoric, the History of Economics Society, the University of Utah, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and the Volcker Alliance. She previously served as Director of Debate for the Penn State Speech & Debate Society, and she received her Ph.D. from Penn State, MA from Baylor University, and BSBA from the University of Pittsburgh. She competed in Policy Debate while in college and primarily competed in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and International Extemp while in high school.
Min Jin Lee
Class of 1986 | The Bronx High School of Science, New York
Min Jin Lee is a Korean American writer whose work frequently deals with Korean American topics. Her debut novel Free Food for Millionaires was published in 2007. It was named one of the Top 10 Novels of the Year by The Times. In 2017, Lee released a novel entitled Pachinko, which is an epic historical novel following characters from Korea who eventually migrate to Japan. It is the first novel written for an adult English speaking audience about Japanese Korean culture. The book is on the “Best Fiction of 2017” lists from Esquire, Chicago Review of Books, and Amazon. Pachinko was named by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 and was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction.
IN HER WORDS | “When I was growing up, I was silent. In high school, I decided to join the debate team to overcome my shyness, then after a year I took public speaking classes.”
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.
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.
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.
Class of 1994 | Caddo Parish Magnet High School, Louisiana
Grace Mead is a complex commercial litigator and shareholder at Stearns Weaver Miller in Miami, Florida. Grace attended Dartmouth College, where she continued to compete in debate. She later graduated with High Honors, Order of the Coif, from the University of Chicago Law School, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. She then clerked for the Honorable Jerry E. Smith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and was an associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Since, at Stearns Weaver, from 2007 to 2017, she represented BBX Capital Corporation and its Chairman and CEO Alan Levan, which owned the 100-branch Florida bank BankAtlantic in a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and then enforcement action alleging BBX had concealed loan risks. A six-week jury trial and split verdict in 2014, a successful appeal to the Eleventh Circuit in 2016, and a second six-week jury trial in 2017 resulted in a verdict and judgment for BBX and Mr. Levan rejecting every claim asserted by the SEC. She currently represents Florida pubic college and university donors, recent graduates, and proposed classes of donors, students, and recent graduates in a lawsuit to compel payment of more than $1 billion owed to Florida’s public colleges, universities, and their students.
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.
Anson A. Mount, IV
Class of 1991 | Dickson County High School, Tennessee
Anson Mount is perhaps best known for portraying protagonist Cullen Bohannon on AMC’s Hell on Wheels. His films include Non-Stop, Mr. Right, The Forger, Safe, In Her Shoes, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Poolhall Junkies, City By the Sea, Tully, and Cook County, which he both produced and starred in. Anson is also a dedicated stage actor, most recently appearing in the Robert O’hara satire Mankind. He has worked at the Public Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, the New Group, and the Singapore Rep. His podcast The Well features interviews with innovators and creators about how they force themselves to think outside the box. He holds a B.A. from Sewanee: The University of the South and an M.F.A. from Columbia University. Anson placed among the top 40 contestants in Dramatic Interpretation at the 1991 National Tournament.
Class of 2002 | Raymore-Peculiar High School, Missouri
Tiara Na’puti is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Boulder. She also works with BoulderTalks, a center of the Department of Communication, that fosters community and knowledge through democratic engagement. And, she is a core faculty member in the Center for Native American & Indigenous Studies (CNAIS). She researches and publishes articles on communication and militarization issues in Oceania, and has testified at the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) on the decolonization of Guåhan (Guam).
Tiara competed in both speech and debate events in high school in Peculiar, Missouri. She and her teammates were the Missouri Reader’s Theatre champions in 2001 and 2002. She graduated magna cum laude from Emporia State University with a B.A. in Communication and a B.A. in Spanish. While attending university, she competed in Policy Debate and also participated in Spanish language debates at the Universidad Pública de Navarra (Pamplona, Spain).
Tiara received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication Studies with a graduate certificate in Native American & Indigenous Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. While completing her graduate degrees, she coached for the UT-Austin Policy Debate team and also coordinated a short-term grant project that fostered bilingual Policy Debate for Spanish/English speakers in Austin and Rio Grande Valley area high schools. She volunteered for the Urban Debate League and University Interscholastic League (UIL) in Texas, and served as a volunteer translator and interpreter for immigration legal services serving immigrants and refugees throughout Central Texas.
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, tells the story of two families in Shaker Heights, Ohio. The book was an instant New York Times Bestseller and Amazon’s Best Novel of 2017.
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.”
Class of 1951 | Beverly Hills High School, California
Elinor Ostrom was an American political economist whose work was associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy. In 2009, she shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Oliver E. Williamson for her “analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.” To date, she remains the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. After graduating with a B.A. and Ph.D. from UCLA, Ostrom lived in Bloomington, Indiana, and served on the faculty of Indiana University, with a late-career affiliation with Arizona State University. She was Distinguished Professor at Indiana University and the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, as well as a research professor and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in Tempe. She was a lead researcher for the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Tech and funded by USAID.
IN HER WORDS | “Since our home in Los Angeles was located at the lower edge of Beverly Hills, my mother arranged for me to attend Beverly Hills High School. Fortunately, I was encouraged to join the debate team in my junior year of high school and participated actively in speech competitions around the state. Learning debate was an important early impact on my ways of thinking. You are taught that there are always at least two sides to public policy questions, and you have to learn a good argument for both sides as well as knowing how to critique both sides.”
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.
Class of 1997 | Bangor High School, Maine
Sarah Helen Parcak is an American archaeologist, Egyptologist, and remote sensing expert who has used satellite imaging to identify potential archaeological sites in Egypt, Rome, and elsewhere in the former Roman Empire. She is the associate professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In partnership with her husband, Greg Mumford, she directs survey and excavation projects in the Faiyum, Sinai, and Egypt’s East Delta.
Catch Parcak using her speech and debate skills in her Ted Talk.
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.
Warren Central High School, Indiana
Jane Pauley is an American television journalist and author. She has been involved in news reporting since 1972. She is the anchor of CBS Sunday Morning and previously best known for her 13-year tenure on NBC’s Today program, followed by 12 years as co-host of Dateline NBC, and for her public acknowledgements of her struggle with bipolar disorder.
IN HER WORDS | “One of the most important decisions in my life was when the student body of Warren Central High School in Indianapolis decided I should not be a varsity cheerleader. It meant my weekends were free. For the next three years, I spent most Saturdays on the road with the largest National Forensic League chapter in the country. While the fifteen-year-old girl inside of me still mourns the lost letter sweater, the adult Jane is grateful to NFL for something much more important a—career.”
Class of 1997 | The Calhoun School, New York
Jordan Peele is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and director. Peele appeared for five seasons as a cast member on Mad TV, and starred with Keegan-Michael Key in the Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele. In 2014, he had a recurring role in the first season of the FX anthology series Fargo, based on the 1996 film of the same name. Peele’s 2017 directorial debut, the film Get Out, earned critical acclaim and was a box office success. He received numerous accolades including the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay along with nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.
Class of 1995 | Freehold Township High School, New Jersey
Kalpen Suresh Modi is an American actor, comedian, producer, and former civil servant best known by his stage name Kal Penn. As an actor, he is known for his role portraying Lawrence Kutner on the television program House as well as the character Kumar Patel in the Harold & Kumar film series. He is also recognized for his performance in the critically acclaimed film The Namesake. Penn has taught at the University of Pennsylvania in the Cinema Studies Program as a visiting lecturer.
In April 2009, Penn joined the Obama administration as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.Penn resigned his post as Barack Obama’s Associate Director of Public Engagement on June 1, 2010, for a brief return to his acting career. He filmed the third installment of the Harold & Kumar series and subsequently returned to the White House Office of Public Engagement as an Associate Director. In July 2011, he again left the White House to accept a role in the hit television series How I Met Your Mother. Currently, he stars in the role of Seth Wright in the ABC political drama Designated Survivor and serves as the current host of the new game show Superhuman.
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.
Class of 1976 | Pennsbury High School, Pennsylvania
James Poterba is the Mitsui Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-profit research organization with more than 1,500 affiliated economists. He has served as president of the National Tax Association and as vice president of the American Economic Association. In 2005, he served as a member of the President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, and in 2014, he received the NTA’s Daniel M. Holland Medal for lifetime contributions to public finance. His research focuses on public policy and retirement security, with a particular emphasis on the role of tax incentives and Social Security. He and his partner Stephen Meagher, coached by the late Hall of Fame coach Edwin Kelly, won the 1976 Policy Debate championship; he also won the “Boys’ Extemp” championship that year.
IN HIS WORDS | “The skills that I developed in Debate and Extemp have been invaluable in my academic career. Teaching and presenting new research ideas in seminar settings both depend critically on clear, organized, and persuasive communication. Policy Debate also taught me critical thinking and research skills. I trace my interest in economics and tax policy to the national debate topics my freshman and sophomore years in high school. Those topics—federal financing of K-12 education and guaranteed annual income—remain core issues in my research field.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Class of 1956 | Miami Beach High School, Florida
Robert Rubin was a lawyer, former cabinet member, and retired banking executive. He served as the 70th United States Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration. Before his government service, he spent 26 years at Goldman Sachs, eventually serving as a member of the board and co-chairman from 1990 to 1992. After his political career he served as a director and senior counselor to Citigroup. He is the founder of The Hamilton Project, an economic policy think tank that produces research and proposals on how to create a growing economy that benefits more Americans. He was co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa.
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).
Class of 1984 | Scranton Central High School, Pennsylvania
Katy Selverstone is an American actress. She is primarily known for her work on The Drew Carey Show as Lisa Robbins, Drew Carey’s girlfriend. More recently, she worked on higher profile shows (such as NYPD Blue, CSI, and CSI: Miami) and movies (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood). She is also known for her work on the stage, featuring in the original Broadway cast of The Ride Down Mt. Morgan.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Class of 1977 | Corona del Mar High School, California
David Alan Sklansky is the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, where he teaches and writes about criminal law, criminal procedure, and the law of evidence, and serves as a faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a degree in Biophysics in 1981 and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984. He clerked for Judge Abner J. Mikva of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court. After practicing labor law at Bredhoff & Kaiser in Washington, D.C., he spent seven years as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and then taught law at UCLA and U.C. Berkeley. He joined the Stanford faculty in 2014.
He was a member of the speech and debate team at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, California. During college, he taught at the Golden West Forensic Institute at the University of Redlands and was an assistant debate coach at John F. Kennedy High School in Richmond, California.
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.
Houston-Bellaire High School, Texas
Brent Spiner is an American actor, comedian, and singer best known for his portrayal of the android Lieutenant Commander Data in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and four subsequent films. In 1997, he won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Data in Star Trek: First Contact, and was nominated in the same category for portraying Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence. He has also enjoyed a career in the theatre and as a musician.
In 1967, Spiner was the national champion in Dramatic Interpretation, competing under the name Brent Mintz.
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.
Class of 2014 | Millard West High School, Nebraska
Tayler W. Sundermann is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying mechanical engineering. He is most recognized for the creation of the national non-profit Put A Sock In It, which takes mismatched socks and redistributes them to those in need across the country. Additionally, he uses his for-profit business Activity Coins LLC to sponsor high performing young people into starting their own businesses, calling them Kid-Trepreneurs.
Class of 1994 | Apple Valley High School, Minnesota
Paper magazine named Maria Thayer one of the “Eight Women in Comedy that are Going to Take Over the World.” Maria received her television break in Strangers With Candy. She currently stars in the series Those Who Can’t. She also starred in the Adult Swim series Eagleheart. Her other television work includes roles in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Mindy Project, Review, Portlandia, Married, Difficult People, Man Seeking Woman, The League, Kroll Show, New Girl, Maron, Cougar Town, Arrested Development, and Gotham.
Her film credits include Night of The Living Deb, Fox Searchlight’s Table 19, State of Play, Steve Pink’s Accepted, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Todd Solondz’s Storytelling, and the independent Let Go.
Thayer is a graduate of The Juilliard School. She lives in Los Angeles.
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.
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).
Watch Stephen speak about celebrating National Speech and Debate Education Day!
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.
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.
Mark E. Windham
Class of 1976 | Van Nuys High School, California
Judge Mark E. Windham attended UC Berkeley, where he debated on the NDT circuit. He coached and judged throughout college and was a teaching assistant in speech and debate classes at the university. In 1983, he graduated from UC Hastings Law School and practiced law for 24 years. Windham became a Deputy Public Defender, specializing in death penalty defense and scientific evidence, in particular forensic DNA testing, frequently writing and speaking on the subjects. In 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the bench. Since then, he has served as Judge of the Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles and now supervises the criminal judges in the West District of Los Angeles County.
IN HIS WORDS | “I competed in speech and debate from 1974 to 1976 and made nationals in 1976. With a sense of gratitude for what I received, I am giving back to speech and debate: four years ago I started a speech and debate program at New Roads School in Santa Monica. It is gratifying to see the students learn; their tremendous success has been a plus. Our program continues to grow. High school speech and debate competitors impress me by their effort and commitment; this was instrumental to my own professional success; I assure you that it will contribute greatly to your own.”
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.
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.