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100 Years of Commitment

The National Speech & Debate Association was created in 1925 to provide recognition and support for high school students participating in speech and debate activities.



    Bruno E. Jacob, of Ripon College in Wisconsin, founds the National Forensic League (now National Speech & Debate Association) to motivate high school students to participate in speech and debate activities.



    The first National Tournament is held at Ripon College, with 49 schools from 17 states in attendance.



    The Great Depression doesn’t hinder growth: school membership reaches 400 chapters and CBS radio carries the championship debate.



    World War II forces the League to suspend the National Tournament, except for the Student Congress, commended in a letter by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.



    The National Tournament returns with 96 contestants from 22 states.



    President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends greetings to Congress convening in Denver.



    The organization records 100,000 individual members in December.



    Reader’s Digest donates $7,500 towards the cost of the National Tournament.



    The National Forensic League reaches 300,000 members.



    The National Forensic League celebrates its golden anniversary and moves into its own building after working on the Ripon College campus for 50 years.



    The organization establishes the Hall of Fame, with Bruno E. Jacob becoming one of the first of 11 inductees.



    National Tournament Final Rounds are video recorded for the first time.



    The points system expands to include new degrees at 750 and 1,000 points. Point limits are raised to 500 per category and 1,000 overall.



    The League expands membership to middle school students.



    The Academic All American Award is established to honor students who excel in both academics and speech and debate.



    The League celebrates one million members enrolled.



    32 students from eight countries compete in the first international competitions of Ted Turner Public Forum and Congressional Debate.



    The Code of Honor is established to emphasize the importance of respect, honor, leadership, service, and integrity.



    Computers are allowed in Policy Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, and Congressional Debate, as well as Extemporaneous Speaking preparation at the District and National Tournaments.



    The National Forensic League changes its name to the National Speech & Debate Association.



    The first official African American/Black and Hispanic/Latinx coaches’ caucuses are officially held.



    The 2020 National Tournament is held entirely online in the midst of the COVID-19 virus global pandemic. The event is the largest national speech and debate tournament ever held with more than 6,000 participants.



    The 2022 National Tournament returns to in-person competition.



    The NSDA Board of Directors votes to create a Competition and Rules Leadership Committee and move to an all-appointed Board of Directors to ensure diversity in identity, skill set, and background, as well as promote the organization’s sustainability and vision/mission fulfillment.



The National Speech & Debate Association is founded in 1925 by Bruno E. Jacob at Ripon College in Ripon, WI.

One hundred schools are chartered in 1926. In 1927, a monthly Bulletin, forerunner of Rostrum, makes its debut. The first chapter manual is published in 1928. Jeweled pins to designate degrees and gold insignia for instructors are authorized in 1930.

National Tournament Era

1930-1931 In August, the Executive Director proposes to the Board that it sponsor a National Tournament. The first national high school debate championship is held May 7-9, 1931, at Ripon College, WI with 49 schools from 17 states competing. Miami, Oklahoma, wins the first title. District tournaments are held for the first time.
1931-1932 Distinguished service awards are authorized, and the national championship debate is broadcast by the Columbia network.
1932-1933 Growth continues in spite of the economic depression and reaches 400 chapters. Karl E. Mundt (SD) is elected President. All National Tournament winners appear on an NBC network program, and CBS again carries the championship debate.
1933-1934 Free debate materials are distributed to chapters. The Pacific coast is represented in the National Tournament for the first time.
1934-1935 The national office is moved to the University of Denver where Bruno E. Jacob engages in graduate study. The first meeting of all Board members takes place, and 10 amendments to the constitution are proposed to adapt League rules to growth and to the rapidly increasing number of debate and speech tournaments. Rostrum replaces the earlier Bulletin.
1935-1936 Topeka wins the first Tau Kappa Alpha trophy at the National Tournament. The limit of 500 charter chapters set by the Board is reached and a waiting list is established. The first class of national honorary members is inducted.
1936-1937 The League office returns to Ripon College. National Tournament teams are rated instead of given win-loss decisions in the first five rounds.
1937-1938 The first National Congress is held in conjunction with the National Tournament. Poetry Reading, under the personal direction of Ted Malone, is instituted as a consolation event, and three major networks carry programs of winners.
1938-1939 The constitution is again amended to increase requirements for membership and degrees, to reduce points for contests, and to abolish fees for all degrees except Honor. The Congress event is extended to districts. The presidency moves to Washington, D.C., with the election of Karl E. Mundt (SD) as Congressman.
1939-1940 Cross-examination in debate is first used in the National Tournament. Presidential nominating conventions are added.
1940-1941 A loose-leaf system of keeping credit point records is supplied to every chapter.

The War Years

1941-1942 The National Tournament is suspended. The Congress meets in the Wisconsin State Capitol and receives a letter of commendation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1942-1943 A war emergency schedule of credit points for service speeches to school and community audiences is established. Associate membership for intramural speaking is authorized. A diamond-set key is authorized for coaches attaining 1,000 credit points.
1943-1944 The Leading Chapter Award is instituted. The constitution is amended to add a principal and a superintendent to the Board of Directors and to expand the office of district chair to a three-member District Committee with power to grant charters.
1944-1945 A schedule of points for community service speeches is written into the constitution. The National Congress is suspended in compliance with a ban on conventions. A national contest in Extemporaneous Speaking is held instead at Northwestern University, preceded by regional contests at Denver, Iowa City, Nashville, and Washington, PA.
1945-1946 The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) assumes control of national contests and restricts entry to one student from a state in each event. The national contests for the five speech events are held at Northwestern University following four regional contests.

Post-War Recovery

1946-1947 A single National Speech Tournament is gain held with 96 contestants from 22 states. To discourage marathon speaking in quest of points, the Board limits awarding of points to three rounds a day.
1947-1948 Kenosha High School (WI) sets a new school record at the National Tournament by winning first in two contests, second in another, and third in the other two.
1948-1949 At its annual meeting, the Board makes all members of the District Committee elective by chapters. League President Karl E. Mundt (SD) is elected to the United States Senate.
1949-1950 Debate is restored to the National Tournament by dropping two interpretation events. This action is necessary to secure tournament sanction from the principals’ contest committee.
1950-1951 The League publishes a comprehensive 25th Anniversary book to record the achievements of its members. Leading chapter awards are presented by the Executive Director at assembly programs in 20 schools. The membership fee is raised to $2.

Our Second Quarter Century

1951-1952 Congress is restored to the National Tournament, with one session held in Faneuil Hall, Boston. Interpretation is dropped. Diploma seals for advanced degree graduates are authorized.
1952-1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends greetings to the Congress convening in Denver. The League is incorporated and receives two gifts from Houston totaling $5,000.
1953-1954 Robert W. Scott is engaged as full-time Assistant Executive Secretary to help serve the 600 chapters. Entry to the National Tournament is restricted by eliminating alternates. Four members of the National Congress appear on a CBS television network program, “Youth Takes a Stand.”
1954-1955 An annual trophy for cumulative achievement in the National Congress is established and won by Wooster, OH (host to the first National Congress). Dramatic Interpretation is restored as a National Tournament event.
1955-1956 Membership and degree requirements are raised. Awarding of diamond keys are restricted to one for every 1,000 members and degrees added, and the charter chapter limit is raised to 700. Chapters vote to raise the charter fee to $10.
1956-1957 The 100,000th individual membership is recorded in December.
1957-1958 The League receives a grant from the Ford Foundation and a gift from Nelson A. Rockefeller.
1958-1959 League offices are moved into larger quarters in the Ripon College administration building.
1959-1960 Charter requirements are raised and charter chapters are limited to 1,000. The charter fee is set at $10 a year. A double ruby is authorized for both students and coaches, and the Leading Chapter Award is restricted to one for every 1,000 new members and degrees.
1960-1961 District tournament rules are changed to apportion entries according to chapter size, the limit of 1,000 charter chapters having been reached. Affiliate membership for schools awaiting a charter vacancy is established. Supt. L. J. Smith of Massillon, OH retires after 18 years on the Board.
1961-1963 National Tournament entry fees are abolished. A minimum of five years of coaching is required for each diamond awarded an instructor. Hawaii enters the National Tournament.
1963-1964 Impromptu replaces Poetry as a National Tournament consolation event.
1964-1965 The charter limit is raised to 1,200 and the number of charters granted to private schools is moderately restricted to maintain a balance between public and private schools.
1965-1966 A second Assistant Executive Secretary is employed. The National Congress is limited to a Senate to stay within attendance limits prescribed for the National Tournament.

A new schedule of points for contests is established, and the requirement for the diamond key award is set at 1,500 points and five years of coaching. The degree fee is abolished and the membership fee is raised to $3. Sponsorship of district Congresses is limited to one a year in each district. Rules for entry in the National Tournament are revised to maintain its size.

“Now with 1,100 chapters and over 900 affiliates, the League faced the challenge of growth—serving the larger number of schools and still retaining the features which made it grow. I could look back on 42 years of service to 260,000 young Americans and forward to continuing opportunities for developing articulate young leaders for the American Way of Life.” – Bruno E. Jacob

1967-1968 The League receives $7,500 from Reader’s Digest to defray expenses of the 1968 National Tournament and $15,000 to send 13 students and three adults on a tour of Europe.
1968-1969 $10,000 is received from Reader’s Digest to defray expenses of the National Tournament. Bruno E. Jacob retires, is appointed “Executive Director Emeritus,” and is presented with a gift of a new automobile and funds for world travel. The 300,000th individual membership is recorded in March.
1969-1970 The Reader’s Digest Foundation granted $8,000 for the next three years to help defray National Tournament expenses. Lester M. Tucker is appointed Executive Director. The League expands to 44 districts. Affiliate school fees are increased to $15.
1970-1971 The Board of Directors is increased by two members. Chapter dues are increased to $25.
1971-1972 Senator Karl E. Mundt (SD) retires as President. James F. Hawker (IN) is elected President. Seals for special distinction are authorized. Marquette High School (WI) breaks a National Tournament record by winning two contests, placing second in debate and winning both sweepstakes.
1972-1973 A chapter award is presented to the leading school in each of the 44 districts. An award is authorized for the leading affiliate school in the nation.
1973-1974 The Phillips Petroleum Company grants funds to help underwrite the National Tournament. Students are allowed to earn up to 600 points. Four new districts are created.
1974-1975 The Golden Anniversary (1925-1975) is observed. Senator Karl E. Mundt (SD) dies. One new district is created.
1975-1976 The League acquires its own building after 50 years on the campus of Ripon College. Three new districts are created.

Starting the Next 50 Years

1976-1977 The Karl E. Mundt Foundation gives funds to help underwrite Congress. Humorous Interpretation is added as a main event for district and national tournaments. Dennis Winfield (IA) is elected President.
1977-1978 Lester M. Tucker retires and Dennis Winfield (IA) is appointed Executive Director. Carmendale Fernandes (CA) becomes President. The League has 1,315 chapters and 694 affiliates. The Hall of Fame is established and Bruno E. Jacob is named the first of 11 inductees. Mr. Jacob is named by acclamation.
1978-1979 The H. B. Mitchell Debate Trophy is established. Mr. Mitchell’s debate teams won three national championships and two second place finishes.
1979-1980 Bruno E. Jacob dies. Lincoln-Douglas Debate is established as an event. Phyllis Barton (OH) and Donus Roberts (SD) are elected to the Board.
1980-1981 Chapters respond to need and raise student membership dues to $5—the first increase in seven years.
1981-1982 National debate winners are awarded a $2,000 scholarship from Who’s Who Among American High School Students.
1982-1983 Videotaping of National Tournament final rounds is initiated. United States and Foreign Extemp are established.
1983-1984 James Copeland (WI) is elected President. Qualifiers to the National Tournament come exclusively from districts.
1984-1985 Congress points increase from 12 to 24 per day. The Conference on the State of Debate is held in Kansas City. Principal Ronald Last resigns from the Board. Brother René Sterner, FSC (PA) is appointed Administrative Representative. Harold C. Keller is elected by district chairs to fill the vacancy.
1985-1986 Frank Sferra (CO) is elected President; Phyllis Barton (OH) is elected Vice President. Richard Sodikow (NY) and Lanny D. Naegelin (TX) are elected to the Board. Dennis Winfield resigns and James Copeland is appointed acting Executive Director.
1986-1987 Cincinnati Princeton High School (OH) hosts the National Tournament for the second time. Speaker of the House James Wright addresses National Tournament attendees.
1987-1988 Charter chapters number almost 1,700, with affiliates over 600. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers sponsors Constitutional U.S. Extemp. James Copeland (WI) is appointed Executive Director. Billy Tate (TN) and Don Crabtree (MO) are elected to the Board. Donus Roberts (SD) conducts the National Forensic League Goals 2000 Conference. Nashville, TN hosts the National Tournament.
1988-1989 The point system expands to include new degrees at 750 and 1,000. Point limits are raised to 500 per category and 1,000 overall. The individual student membership fee is raised to $10. The “California Plan” option is made available for conducting speech events at district tournaments.
1989-1990 Frank Sferra (CO) is re-elected President, and Donus Roberts (SD) is elected Vice President. Harland B. Mitchell (OK) dies. Phillips Petroleum Foundation, Inc., offers the League a $25,000 challenge grant each year for three years. New districts are added in Colorado, Florida, and Kansas.
1990-1991 Phyllis Flory Barton (OH) dies, and a trophy and scholarship in her name was established for the top Policy Debate speaker at the National Tournament. District chairs elect Ted Belch (IL) to the Board. Six guaranteed rounds are established for all events at the National Tournament. New districts are launched in Arkansas, Virginia, and Kansas. Ralph E. Carey dies and leaves the League a major bequest. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee grants funds for a video education project.
1991-1992 The Phillips Petroleum Company makes a major gift to promote speech education in urban and rural areas, as well as to sponsor the National Tournament. Carmendale Fernandes retires from the Board after service over four decades. Donus Roberts (SD) chairs a major League conference in Denver. David Johnson is elected to the Board.
1992-1993 Albert Odom retires from the staff after 25 years of service. Ben Davis High School (IN) hosts the National Tournament a second time.
1993-1994 The Park Hill Schools of Kansas City, MO host the National Tournament for a second time. A summer Board retreat plans the League’s future. Donus Roberts (SD) is elected President, and Billy Tate (TN) is elected Vice President. Glenda Ferguson (OK) and Cat Bennett (NM) are elected to the Board.
1994-1995 Lincoln Life begins sponsorship of Lincoln-Douglas Debate, and the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership begins sponsorship of Congress. Phillips CEO C. W. Allen and Lincoln Life CEO John Boscia appear at the National Tournament. Sandra Silvers dies and leaves a large bequest.
1995-1996 Cat Bennett (NM) resigns from the Board, replaced by alternate Ted Belch. Roger Brannan (KS) becomes the alternate Board member. The National Junior Forensic League is founded for middle schools. Duo Interpretation is added as a national event. The 900,000th member is recorded. Marilyn Hageman retires from the staff after more than 30 years of service. All time coach point leader, Tedd Woods, dies.
1996-1997 Lanny D. Naegelin is elected President, and Billy Tate is elected Vice President.
1997-1998 President L. D. Naegelin dies. Vice President Billy Tate becomes President, and alternate Roger Brannan becomes a Board member. Kandi King (TX) also joins the Board in 1998. The Barbara Jordan Youth Debates on Health are sponsored for urban debaters by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
1998-1999 Lincoln Financial Group becomes the signature sponsor of the National Forensic League and the National Tournament. The Kaiser Family Foundation sponsors Policy Debate. Past Vice President Vernon Metz dies. Billy Tate is elected President; Frank Sferra is elected Vice President. Past national champion and movie star Shelley Long along with Lincoln Financial Group CEO Jon Boscia are special guests. Lindsay Littlefield (ND) is the first female “All American” point leader.
1999-2000 The Academic All American Award is established to honor students with both high academic achievement, as well as competitive forensic experience.  The first Middle School National Tournament is held at Fr. Ryan High School in Nashville, TN.

The New Millennium

2000-2001 Ted W. Belch is elected Vice President. Schwan’s becomes a sponsor. Dr. Joan Keston of the Public Employees Roundtable is the first female to be named a national honorary member. The University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK hosts nationals, with all events, including Congress, in the same venue.
2001-2002 National honorary member Ted Turner is a featured guest at the National Tournament. Chapters begin recording points online through the League’s first website, following a site hosted on the University of Vermont’s “Debate Central” by Dr. Alfred C. “Tuna” Snider.
2002-2003 James Copeland retires, and J. Scott Wunn of Iowa is appointed Executive Director. Don Crabtree (MO) is elected Vice President. A new event, Public Forum Debate, is created.
2003-2004 Albert Odom dies. The League hosts 32 students from eight countries in first international competitions of Ted Turner Public Forum and Legislative Debate.
2004-2005 William Woods Tate, Jr., (TN) is elected to his fourth term as President. Frank Sferra (CO) and Donus Roberts (SD) retire from the Board. Pam Cady Wycoff (MN) and Dr. Tommie Lindsey, Jr., (CA) are elected.
2005-2006 National honorary member Ted Turner attends the National Tournament. Betty Whitlock (GA) receives the inaugural Humanitarian Award. The national office holds its first triennial Summer Leadership Conference for district chairs in Ripon, WI. The League hosts students from South Korea as part of its Guest Country program. The Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership presents a U.S. Congressional resolution to establish the Harold C. Keller Public Service Award.
2006-2007 Pam McComas (KS) is elected to the Board. Timothy Sheaff (IA) is elected as alternate Board member. Run-off rounds in debate are discontinued and laptop computers are allowed in Policy Debate at the National Tournament.
2007-2008 Long-held values are enumerated in the Code of Honor, which highlights integrity, humility, respect, leadership, and service. The inaugural National Student of the Year Award is presented to Kyle Ackerman of Downers Grove South High School, IL. A new website is unveiled, featuring a rotating news flash, an interactive community portal, an online store, and more. The Colleges and Universities of Excellence program begins, offering college scholarships exclusively to League alumni.
2008-2009 Coach professional development programs are enhanced with accreditation based on competitive excellence, longevity, and commitment to higher education. The online store expands to include downloadable material for the first time. Legendary coach and Board member Brother Gregory T. (René) Sterner (PA) passes away. Glenda Ferguson (OK) retires from the Board, alternate Timothy Sheaff (IA) becomes a Board member, and Christopher McDonald (MN) becomes the Board alternate. A second triennial Summer Leadership Conference is held for District Committee members in Ripon, WI. A modification to the California Plan allows district tournaments the option to use two judges in preliminary rounds.
2009-2010 Two new websites, and, provide myriad instructional resources, thanks to generous support from the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation. The Park Hill Schools of Kansas City, MO host Nationals for the third time. Supplemental Debate is introduced with a record number of entries. The national service project also debuts, resulting in the packaging of 525,960 meals to send to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The top six non-graduating contestants in each main event automatically qualify to the following year’s National Tournament. Harold Keller (IA) retires from the Board. Brother Kevin Dalmasse (DC) is appointed as the Board’s administrative representative.
2010-2011 Computers are allowed in Public Forum, Congressional, Lincoln-Douglas, and Policy Debate as well as Extemporaneous Speaking preparation at the district and national tournaments. A uniform Congressional Debate ranking system takes effect for advancing and placing at both the district and national tournaments. Point recording limitations/caps are abolished. School membership is reclassified as charter, provisional, and member chapters, and the small school chartering requirement is increased to enrollment of 500 students. David Huston (TX) is elected to the Board, and Jay Rye (AL) is elected as the alternate member. Leland High Scool (CA), coached by Gay Brasher, is the first school to exceed 1,000 degrees. A partnership begins with The American Legion to award National Tournament qualification to the top three national finalists of the National Oratorical Contest. The National Tournament is held at the Dallas Sheraton Hotel, the first time in several years the entire tournament and Congress are held together, the first time both competition and lodging are in the same complex, and the first time the National Junior Forensic League national tournament is held with the high school tournament. Students participate in several service projects, including judging middle school competition rounds, donating blood, participating in a virtual food drive, and campaigning to end the “r-word.” The top 14 non-graduating contestants in each main event automatically qualify to the following year’s National Tournament. A summer Board retreat establishes strategic planning goals for the League.
2011-2012 District Committees are restructured with five full voting members elected, abolishing the alternate position. Chapter advisors officially begin voting online for debate topics and district leadership. The League offers its advisors the ability to automatically record points from tournaments tabulated with Joy of Tournaments and Tab Room for the PC (TRPC). New district sweepstakes awards were added for Congress, Debate, and Speech. Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, IN hosts its third National Tournament. The League begins a comprehensive examination into its branding and image. A third triennial Summer Leadership Conference is held for District Committees in Las Vegas, NV. Billy Tate (TN) retires from the Board.
2012-2013 The League makes changes to simplify the process of calculating student services points. All high school students can now earn five points for service speaking projects. Additionally, student members are allowed to vote on proposed debate topics through a new weighted voting system where coach votes are worth 75% and student votes are worth 25%. The new Communicators in the Classroom program is launched to provide increased access to speech and debate inside and outside of the classroom. Longtime coach, Hall of Fame member, and Board President William Woods Tate, Jr., (TN) passes away in April 2013. A memorial fund is established in Billy’s honor. In a historic vote, the Board of Directors votes unanimously to change the name of the organization to the National Speech & Debate Association. The National Tournament is hosted in Birmingham, AL for the second time. Don Crabtree (MO) is elected to a two-year term as President. Pam Cady Wycoff (MN) is elected to a two-year term as Vice President.
2013-2014 The National Speech & Debate Association expands to 110 districts with the addition of the Florida Oceanfront and Yellow Rose (TX) districts. The Mississippi district is renamed Magnolia. The Board of Directors votes to increase annual school membership fees and the one-time individual membership fee. The Student Leadership Committee (SLC) is created to engage young members and run the student publication, Soapbox. Rostrum magazine shifts to a quarterly publication cycle. Jay Rye (AL) is elected to the Board of Directors. Jennifer Jerome (NE) is elected as the alternate member. The “Heartland Pride” National Tournament is held in Overland Park, KS. The Association launches its spoken word poetry contest, Light the Stage, culminating with live student performances at the National Tournament. On June 19, 2014, the National Speech & Debate Association becomes the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® title holder for “Most People Sending a Text Message Simultaneously.” District leaders convene in Las Vegas, NV for the “Go All In” Summer Leadership Conference, discussing concepts of Building Community and Project Engagement.
2014-2015 Don Crabtree (MO) is re-elected for a two-year term as President. Pam Cady Wycoff (MN) is re-elected for a two-year term as Vice President. Polly Reikowski, Ph.D. (MN) is appointed as the Board’s administrative representative. The Association pilots updated rules for evidence in Lincoln-Douglas, Public Forum, and Policy Debate. The Board also accepts a pilot proposal to accept World Schools district teams at the National Tournament. New district awards are created for recognizing alumni, communicators, principals, and volunteers at the local level. Celebrating 90 years of tremendous history, the National Speech & Debate Tournament returns to Dallas, TX in June. Dr. Tommie Lindsey, Jr., (CA) organizes informal discussions among African American coaches concerning issues facing persons of color in the activity, which becomes the first iteration of the coaches’ caucus program.
2015-2016 In the fall of 2015, the Board affirms that, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, all memberships, including middle schools, in the National Speech & Debate Association must be school-based. The membership also passes four Constitutional amendments in the spring of 2016, updating membership eligibility, credit point allocations, voting strength (following the “one member, one vote” and “one school, one vote” model), and Board structure. Kandi King (TX) retires from the Board, and Timothy E. Sheaff (IA) rejoins the Board for a four-year term. The National Speech & Debate Tournament is held in Salt Lake City, UT in June. Jacqueline (Jacci) Young (MO) joins Tim Sheaff as co-emcee of the National Awards Assembly. In August, district leaders meet in Las Vegas, NV for the “United in Mission, Vision, and Voice” Summer Leadership Conference.The first official African American/Black and Hispanic/Latinx coaches’ caucuses are officially held, along with a session on the future of caucuses, leading to the first publicly promised equity commitments by the organization in 2017. On March 4, the inaugural National Speech and Debate Education Day is recognized by the United States Senate. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware), and Senator Angus King (I-Maine) serve as co-sponsors of the legislation. Amy Seidelman is named Assistant Executive Director by Executive Director, Scott Wunn. Pam Cady Wycoff (MN), Dr. Tommie Lindey, Jr. (CA), Jennifer Jerome (NE), and Timothy Sheaff (IA) are re-elected to Board seats. The National Tournament is held in Salt Lake City, UT featuring two new pilot events, Program Oral Interpretation and Informative Speaking.
2016-2017 The Board of Directors offers its first two appointed member seats to Tom Rollins (VA) and Monica Silverstein (NY). Carol Zanto, Director of Finance, retires after 48 years of service to the NSDA. Program Oral Interpretation and Informative Speaking are named main events. Big Questions Debate is added, thanks to a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. Robert Runcie, Superintendent of Broward County Schools is appointed to the Board of Directors. LGBTQ+ and Womxn and Gender Non-conforming (renamed “Womxn” beginning in 2018) coaches’ caucuses are added. The Board of Directors establishes its first five year strategic plan emphasizing reaching more students, supporting more schools, earning loyalty, driving inclusive participation, and striving for financial stability. 
2017-2018 David Huston (TX) is re-elected to the Board of Directors. Byron Arthur (LA), Adam Jacobi (WI), and Renee Motter (CO) are elected for their first terms. Robert Runcie’s Board appointment is changed to administrative representative. Don Crabtree ends his tenure on the NSDA Board and his presidency after serving for 30 years. The “Don Crabtree Distinguished Service Awards” are officially named to honor his legacy. Pam Cady Wycoff is elected Board President and is the second woman to hold this office. Dr. Tommie Lindsey, Jr., is elected the first African American Vice President. In the aftermath of a mass shooting tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County Public Schools, host of the 2018 National Tournament, a “Powerful Voices, Meaningful Changes” program is held the Saturday prior to Nationals to recognize the impacts of gun violence and the power of youth voice to elicit change. The 2018 National Tournament awards assembly begins with a moving tribute to the victims of the tragedy. Student members of Broward County debate programs who led the “March for our Lives” movement that followed are honored as the 2018 Communicators of the Year. An Asian American coaches’ caucus is added to the coach caucus program.
2018-2019 Dallas, TX is the host city for the National Tournament for the fourth time since 2006. It is the largest tournament in NSDA history. This marks the third time in eight years in which the tournament is held entirely at the Dallas Sheraton Hotel and Dallas Crowne Plaza Hotel. In the summer of 2019, in partnership with Colorado College and with support from Emory University’s Barkley Forum for High Schools, the NSDA hosts its first Inclusion Workshop. It is facilitated by Glenn Singleton, founder of Pacific Education Group and creator of the Beyond Diversity seminar series. Robert Runcie (FL), Tom Rollins (VA), and Monica Silverstein (FL) are appointed for second terms to the Board of Directors. Dr. Mike Edmonds (CO) and Wendy Orthman (IN) are appointed to a first term. The Board passes term limits on elected member seats. Beginning in 2024, Board members can serve two, four-year terms consecutively and then are eligible for a third, four-year term after a four-year hiatus.
2019-2020 The 2020 National Tournament is held entirely online in the midst of the COVID-19 virus global pandemic. The event is the largest national speech and debate tournament ever held with more than 6,000 participants. Storytelling and Impromptu move from consolation events to supplemental events. The NSDA publishes an equity statement outlining the standing commitments of the organization in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A Persons with Disabilities coaches’ caucus is added. The NSDA rolls out an online platform called NSDA Campus, which allows more than 1,300 speech and debate tournaments to be held online that year, supporting hundreds of thousands of competitors during the pandemic. Pam Cady Wycoff (MN) and Dr. Tommie Lindsey, Jr., (CA) are re-elected to the Board of Directors and re-elected to President and Vice President, respectively. Jennifer Jerome (NE) and James Rye III (AL) are also elected to four-year terms on the Board of Directors. Dr. Alan Coverstone (DC) and Sara Gibson (DC) are appointed to two-year terms to the Board of Directors.
2020-2021 The 2021 National Tournament is held online for the second year due to the ongoing COVID-19 virus global pandemic. The event breaks the previous year’s attendance record with more than 8,000 students participating. A free, online NSDA National Conference promoting more equitable and inclusive speech and debate communities​​ is held in August with over 700 registrants. The NSDA lauches the Springboard Series in 2020, which offers free, online scrimmages and weekend tournaments, thanks to the generosity of The Julia Burke Foundation. Theia Chatelle is named the 2021 National Student of the Year, the first openly trans student to achieve this honor. An Indigenous Peoples’ coaches’ caucus is added to the program. Anoop Mishra (AL) and Holly Williams (AZ) are appointed to two-year terms to the Board of Directors.
2021-2022 Byron Arthur (LA), Adam Jacobi (WI), David Huston (TX), and Renee Motter (CO) are re-elected to the Board of Directors. The NSDA adopts a formal rubric to intentionally evaluate the topics students are encouraged to explore through an equity lens. The NSDA Last-Chance Qualifier is offered as an online opportunity for high school students who did not qualify through their district tournament to have a chance to attend Nationals. An Online Supplemental Events division of the National Tournament is also held for high school students in early June. The 2022 National Speech & Debate Tournament returns to in-person competition in Louisville, KY. The Middle School National Tournament is held online. 
2022-2023 The NSDA hires Dr. Paul Porter (IN) as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Phoenix/Mesa, AZ hosts the 2023 National Tournament, marking the return of in-person competition for middle school students following a three-year hiatus. A record number of schools and students are in attendance. Former Board member, Hall of Fame coach, and National Tournament awards emcee Tim Sheaff (IA) dies. The NSDA presents the inaugual Activating Equity Award to AnnMarie Baines (CA). 

Founder, Bruno E. Jacob

The National Speech & Debate Association founder Bruno Ernst Jacob was born in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, on September 9, 1899. He graduated from Manitowoc High School in 1918 and attended Ripon College, earning his B.A. in Economics. As a college student, Bruno created a pocket handbook entitled “Suggestions for the Debater,” which directly led to the founding of the National Forensic League (National Speech & Debate Association).

After graduating from college in 1922, Bruno taught social studies and coached debate at Chippewa Falls High School in Wisconsin. He later served as Assistant Professor of Speech at Ripon College. In addition to teaching, Bruno worked to develop the National Speech & Debate Association. From 1930 until his retirement, Bruno worked closely with the Committee on Discussion and Debate of the National University Extension Association. He joined with the T.M. Association Committee to promote the growth of speech and debate across the country.

In 1950, Bruno resigned from his teaching position in order to fully commit to the National Speech & Debate Association. Before adding a full-time staff member in 1953, he directed the Association with only office help from students at Ripon College and volunteers from his family. Bruno retired in 1969 and became one of the first members of the Association’s Hall of Fame in 1978.

Bruno’s friends knew him as a modest and well-traveled man. When asked for information for his profile, he said, “Keep it short—very short.” He also visited and bought a postcard from every county in every state and traveled to all the Western European countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa.

The National Speech & Debate Association will always be grateful for Bruno’s contributions to our community.

Bruno E. Jacob
Bruno E. Jacob