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Notable Alumni

Since the National Speech & Debate Association was founded in 1925, we have enrolled nearly two 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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Proud to Be Speech and Debate Alumni

Authors & Filmmakers

Aimee Allison
Aimee Allison

Antioch High School, California

Aimee Allison is a writer, democratic innovator, and visionary champion of racial and gender justice. She is the Founder and President of She the People, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to an America redefined and inspired by women of color. She is the coauthor of Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, and Build a Better World, she has also hosted the Democracy in Color political podcast and has written for national publications including The New York Times, Essence, and Teen Vogue.

Allison holds a B.A. in History and M.A in Education from Stanford University.  In the early 1990’s, Allison earned a rare honorable discharge from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector, launching 30 years of efforts to build communities and launch campaigns grounded in love, justice, and belonging.

Aimee mentioned in an interview that, “Even at an early age, I was looking for belonging. I was a debate champ and the student body president at Antioch High School and started the [Black student union]. Those things were all part of my cultivating an intentional community.”

Links:

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Pintip Dunn
Pintip Dunn
Class of 1995 | Parsons High School, Kansas

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

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

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Saeed Jones
Saeed Jones

Class of 2004 | Lewisville High School, Texas

Saeed Jones is a writer and poet whose debut collection, Prelude to Bruise, was named a 2014 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. His second book, a memoir titled, How We Fight for Our Lives, won the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction in 2019. In 2023, Saeed’s book of poetry, Alive at the End of the World, won the Anisfield-Wolf Award for poetry.

Saeed previously worked for BuzzFeed as the founding LGBT editor and its executive culture editor. He is also one of the hosts of the podcast, Vibe Check.

Of his time in speech and debate, Saeed said, “In high school, my debate coach, Sally Squibb, who I’m still very close to, was a huge influence, and we spent so much time together. With speech you’re taking literature and bringing it to life and really begin to internalize, and certainly with poetry, with rhythm and sound and all of that, it ceases to just be something on the shelf. And that was an experience where I had someone saying “You’re good at this, you’re talented. This isn’t just average, and you need to keep working harder.” So along the way I felt like I kept having those kinds of mentors who would go, “You’re onto something, keep working harder.”

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Neal Katyal
Priya Krishna

Class of 2009 | Greenhill School, Texas

Priya Krishna is a food writer who contributes regularly to the New York Times and Bon Appétit. She is the author of the best-selling cookbook, Indian-ish, which was named a best cookbook of the year by Eater, NPR, Food & Wine, The New York Times, Bon Appétit, and several others.

She is a host on Bon Appétit‘s popular YouTube channel, where she teaches (among other things) the basics of Indian cooking.

Headshot photo credit is Edlyn D’Souza.

R.F. Kuang
R.F. Kuang

Class of 2013 | Greenhill School, TX

Rebecca F. Kuang is a fantasy novelist, and has written numerous novels including The Poppy War, which was nominated for the 2019 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Her later releases include The Dragon Republic, The Burning God, Babel, and Yellowface. Babel debuted at the top spot on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2022.

Rebecca participated in Lincoln Douglas Debate in high school, winning the National Championship at the National Debate Coaches National Championships in 2013. Rebecca was also awarded the top individual speaker award in her division and the NDCA’s Marilee Dukes and Patricia Bailey Award earned by the Lincoln Douglas debater in the United States that accumulated the most success over the entire competitive season.

Links:

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Ben Lerner
Ben Lerner

Class of 1997 | Topeka High School, Kansas

Ben Lerner is a poet, novelist, essayist, critic and teacher. Ben is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundations as well as a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Ben teaches at Brooklyn College, where he was named a Distinguished Professor of English in 2016.

Ben competed at the 1997 National Forensic League National Tournament in International Extemporaneous Speaking and won. He has also authored four books of poetry, The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, Mean Free Path, and The Lights and three novels, Leaving the Atocha Station, 10:04, and The Topeka School.

Links:

Wikipedia

Min Jin Lee
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.”

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Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng
Class of 1998 | Shaker Heights High School, Ohio

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

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Roberto Orci
Roberto Orci
Spring Woods High School, Texas

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

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

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Rachel Sussman
Rachel Sussman

Class of 2008 | Grove High School, Michigan

Rachel Sussman is a Tony Award-winning producer, educator, and entrepreneur who co-founded The MITTEN Lab, an emerging artist residency program in Michigan, and The Business of Broadway, an organization dedicated to “pulling back the curtain” and democratizing the business of Broadway.

Rachel, as part of the producing group Runyonland Sussman, earned her first Tony Award for co-producing Parade. What the Constitution Means to Me (Tony nominated, Pulitzer finalist), The Woodsman (Obie Award), and The Old Man and the Pool are a few of her producing credits.

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Bryan Washington
Bryan Washington
Class of 2011 | James E. Taylor High School, Texas

Bryan Washington is a writer from Houston, Texas. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, BuzzFeed, Vulture, The Paris Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Bon Appétit, One Story, MUNCHIES, American Short Fiction, GQ, FADER, The Awl, Hazlitt, and Catapult, where he wrote a column called “Bayou Diaries.” His first book, Lot, was published by Riverhead Books in March 2019. His second book, Memorial, will follow from Riverhead in 2020.

Anthony Zuiker
Anthony Zuiker

Class of 1986 | Chaparral High School, Nevada

Anthony Zuiker is a television writer, television producer, and author. He is best known as the creator of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He produced all five editions of the CSI franchise: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY,CSI: Cyber and CSI: Vegas. His production company is Dare to Pass.

Besides his work on CSI, Zuiker also created the murder mystery show Whodunnit? and the web series Cybergeddon, for which he received a 2013 Pioneer Award from the International Digital Emmy Awards. Zuiker also launched his first animated series for kids, Mysteryopolis, on Nabi tablets.

Links:

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Business & Economics

Reuben Advani
Reuben Advani

Class of 1990 | Apple Valley High School, MN

Reuben Advani serves as CEO of The Global STEM Alliance, an initiative focused on increasing access to and improving the quality of STEM education. Advani has also authored, The Wall Street MBA and Financial Freedom and is requested as a publis speaker at corporate functions, law firms, and non-profits across the nation. He has also been featured in magazines including Investor’s Business Daily and U.S. News & World Report.

Roy Bahat
Roy Bahat

Class of 1994 | Stuyvesant High School, New York

Roy Bahat is a venture capitalist, educator, and activist. He is currently the head of Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital arm of Bloomberg and he teaches at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Bahat has been a venture capitalist since 2012. He was known in part for funding smaller startups where the founders still had day jobs. In 2013, Bloomberg Beta was created and Bahat was appointed head of the new entity. Bahat is also a member of the Future of Work Commission, a governmental organization focused on economic growth in California.

Links:

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Austan Goolsbee
Austan Goolsbee
Class of 1987 | Milton Academy, Massachusetts

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

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Kenneth Hersh
Kenneth Hersh

Class of 1981 | St. Mark’s School of Texas, Texas

Kenneth Hersh serves as CEO of The George W. Bush Presidential Center, a complex that includes former United States President George W. Bush’s presidential library and museum, the George W. Bush Policy Institute, and the offices of the George W. Bush Foundation. Hersh has also authored a memoir, The Fastest Tortoise. Hersh is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum, and is also on the boards of the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) and the George W. Bush Foundation.

Links:

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Sharon Krause
Sharon Krause

Class of 1985 | Davenport West High School, IA

Sharon Krause is the owner and operator of Dalla Terra Ranch, an organically certified sheep ranch north of Earlham, IA. In 2022, Dalla Terra Ranch gifted 70 acres of the ranch to In Harmony Farm, a newly formed public not-for-profit, thus officially allowing In Harmony Farm to launch its work. Sharon is currently president and chairwoman of the In Harmony Farm board. In Harmony Farm is committed to focusing on environmental sustainability and regenerative agriculture, serving Iowans in need, and creating meaningful experiences for members of our community.

Elinor Ostrom
Elinor Ostrom
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.”

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James Poterba
James Poterba
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.”

Paul Prager
Paul Prager

Class of 1976 | Syosset HS, New York

A 1980 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a member of the investment committee and a Trustee of the USNA Foundation, Paul Prager is an accomplished entrepreneur with a history of establishing and growing energy infrastructure businesses. Paul is the founder and CEO of TeraWulf, a zero-carbon cryptomining company. His career as an entrepreneur, executive, developer, and investor has spanned three decades and four continents, with success across a broad range of energy infrastructure projects. After distinguished service as an anti-submarine warfare officer, Mr. Prager began his career on Wall Street as an oil trader in the turbulent markets of the mid 80’s – developing a crucial aptitude for managing risk in dynamic conditions. He has since founded and led successful ventures in shipping, power generation, midstream gas, renewable energy, and fuels through the global holding company Beowulf Energy LLC.

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Nandini Ramakrishnan
Nandini Ramakrishnan
Class of 2009 | Hinsdale Central High School, Illinois

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

KristieAnne Reed
KristieAnne Reed

Class of 1990 | Bishop Canevin High School, Pennsylvania

KristieAnne Reed is a producer, executive, and the CEO of Bruckheimer Television. Reed has worked on a number of major franchises from the many CSI series to Netflix’s Lucifer, Disney+’s National Treasure, and CBS’ CSI:Vegas and The Amazing Race.

Before shifting to TV, Reed was Senior VP of Feature Films and worked on franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Remember the Titans.

Reed was inspired to pursue her theater interests by Rita Yunker, the forensics coach at Canevin High School. Reed said, “Yunker taught me so much about speech and communication — how to lose gracefully and how to win gracefully.”

Robert Rubin
Robert Rubin
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.

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Deena Shakir
Deena Shakir

Class of 2004 | Leland High School, California

Deena Shakir is a venture capitalist and General Partner at Lux Capital, where she invests in transformative technologies that improve lives and livelihoods. 

Since joining Lux in 2019, Deena has led a number of investments, including in women’s health (Maven Clinic, Alife, Adyn), digital health infrastructure (SteadyMD, H1), health equity (Waymark), and foodtech (Shiru), and fintech (Mos and Ramp).

Deena has had diverse experiences as an aspiring anthropologist, journalist, diplomat, aid worker and technologist. This was demonstrated by her role as a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Department of State under Secretary Clinton, where she helped launch President Obama’s first Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2010.

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Tayler Sundermann
Tayler Sundermann

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.

Community & Social Services

Anthony Barrows
Anthony Barrows
Class of 1996 | Boston Latin School, Massachusetts

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

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

J. Latrice Hill
J. Latrice Hill

Class of 1986 | Monticello High School, Mississippi

J. Latrice Hill serves as the Director of Outreach for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Hill was selected to serve as the FSA State Public Relations and Outreach Specialist, overseeing outreach activities in 71 counties. While in Mississippi, Hill was appointed by two US Secretaries of Agriculture to serve on the National Advisory Committee for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers for three two-year terms.

She is the current Executive Chair of USDA’s Women in Agriculture employee organization. Hill has earned many awards including the Emerson Congressional Hunger Center’s Policy Leadership Award, FSA Administrator’s Team Award for Farm Bill Outreach, Woman in Agriculture Legacy Award and many others.

Links:

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Cory Williams
Cory Williams

Class of 2010 | Hattiesburg High School, Mississippi

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

Communication & News

Kristen Stoltis Anderson
Kristen Soltis Anderson
Class of 2002 | Cypress Creek High School, Florida

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

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David Begnaud
David Begnaud

Class of 2001 | Teurlings Catholic High School, LA

David Begnaud is the Lead National Correspondent for CBS This Morning and Anchor of CBS News Radio’s Reporter’s Notebook. His reporting has been featured across CBS News broadcasts and platforms including CBS This Morning, the CBS Evening News, 48 Hours, CBS Sunday Morning, as well as CBSN, CBS News’ 24/7 streaming news service.

In February 2018, Begnaud was awarded the George Polk Journalism Award for public service for his work reporting on Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria. In 2023, David received the NSDA Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award.

Links:

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Robert Costa
Robert Costa

Class of 2004 | Pennsbury High School, Pennsylvania

Robert Costa is a political reporter who is the chief election and campaign correspondent for CBS News. Prior to joining CBS in 2022, Costa was a longtime national political reporter for The Washington Post. Previously, he was a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC and the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week on PBS. He is the co-author with Bob Woodward of Peril, a # 1 New York Times bestseller on the final days of the Trump presidency.

In 2023, Costa and colleagues at CBS Sunday Morning won an Emmy Award at the 44th News and Documentary Emmy Awards. Costa was cited for his work as a contributing correspondent to the show, which won for “Outstanding Recorded News Program.”

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Hallie Jackson
Hallie Jackson

Class of 2002 | Pennsbury High School, Pennsylvania

Hallie Jackson is the Senior Washington Correspondent for NBC News, an anchor for NBC News Now, and a substitute anchor for Today, Saturday Today, Sunday Today With Willie Geist, and NBC Nightly News.

She worked at a number of news stations before joining NBC News in 2014 including the Hearst Corporation where she reported for their 26 stations from Washington D.C.

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Tom Llamas
Tom Llamas
Class of 1997 | Belen Jesuit Prep School, Florida

Tom Llamas is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, anchor of ABC News “World News Tonight” weekend editions, and Chief National Affairs Correspondent, reporting for all ABC News programs and platforms.

IN HIS WORDS | “Speech and debate taught me at a young age how to handle serious issues and how to present them in front of an audience.”

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Jon Lovett
Jon Lovett
Class of 2000 | Syosset High School, New York

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

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Carlos Maza
Carlos Maza
Class of 2008 | Christopher Columbus High School, Florida

Carlos Maza is a video producer at Vox.com where he produces a series called Strikethrough, focusing on journalism in the age of Trump. Prior to joining Vox, he was research fellow at Media Matters, where he produced videos and led the organization’s LGBT work. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2010.

Jane Pauley
Jane Pauley
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.”

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Pete Williams
Pete Williams

Class of 1970 | Natrona County High School, Wyoming

Pete Williams is a journalist and former government official having worked as press secretary and legislative assistant to U.S> Representative Dick Cheney, and later as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.

NBC News hired Williams in March 1993 to cover news from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Supreme Court. As NBC justice correspondent, Williams interviewed United States Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and Eric Holder, as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray. Williams covered a wide range of events including the Boston Marathon bombing and the United States Capitol car attack in 2021. He has also received three national news Emmy awards and an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Wyoming. 

Williams retired from NBC News on July 29, 2022

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Culinary Arts

Ann Kim
Ann Kim

Class of 1991 | Apple Valley High School, MN

Ann Kim is a James Beard award winning chef and owner of four restaurants including Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza, Young Joni, and Sooki & Mimi. Kim immigrated from South Korea to the United States in 1977 at the age of four and settled in Apple Valley, Minnesota with her sister, parents, and grandmother. 

Kim worked as an actress for eight years before deciding to enter the restaurant business. She most recently was featured on season 7, episode 3 of Netflix’s Chef’s Table: Pizza where she shared her culinary journey and the highs and lows of getting to where she is today.

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Ouita Michel
Ouita Michel

Class of 1983

Ouita Michel is a six-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee, including nominations for Outstanding Restaurateur and Best Chef Southeast and the owner of seven restaurants including Holly Hill Inn, Wallace Station, The Midway Bakery, Windy Corner Market, Smithtown, Woodford Reserve, and Honeywood. Michel and her restaurants are regularly featured in local and national media, such as the New York Times, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Food Network, and the Cooking Channel.

Find out more about Outia Michel

Jim Smith
Jim Smith

Charles Henderson High School, AL

Jim Smith is the Executive Chef of the State of Alabama and Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission as well as owner of The Hummingbird Way Oyster Bar in Mobile, AL. As the state chef, he has placed an emphasis on using the best local ingredients and has made strides to encourage support of local farmers and Alabama fishers.

In middle and high school, Jim excelled in debate and ended up at Samford University in Birmingham on a debate scholarship, where he remained passionate about the activity.

Chef Smith is also known for his appearances on Seasons 14 and 16 of the acclaimed Bravo television cooking competition show, Top Chef

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Education

B. Douglas Bernheim
B. Douglas Bernheim
Class of 1975 | Harvard School, California

B. Douglas Bernheim is the Chair of Stanford University’s Department of Economics, where he is also the Edward Ames Edmonds Professor of Economics. He has previously served as the Director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics, and has held faculty positions at Princeton University and Northwestern University. His research has spanned a variety of fields, including public economics, behavioral economics, game theory, contract theory, industrial organization, political economy, and financial economics. His honors and awards include election as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. He is also a Partner of Bates White, LLC, one of the nation’s premier economic consulting firms, where he serves on the Board of Directors. He has testified as an economic expert in numerous high-profile lawsuits, where his speech and debate training has come in handy. The pinnacle of his speech and debate career was winning the 1976 College Freshman National Debate Championship at Northwestern.

John Bessler
John Bessler
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.

Brittney Cooper
Brittney Cooper

Class of 1998 | Ruston High School, LA

Brittney Cooper is a professor, writer, and public speaker. Brittney is an 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 and has written three books, “Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women,” “The Crunk Femenist Collection,” and “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower.”

Brittney has this to say about her time in speech and debate » 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.

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Brian Domitrovic
Brian Domitrovic

Class of 1985 | 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.

Dr. Mike Edmonds
Dr. Mike Edmonds
Class of 1980 | Northwest High School, Tennessee

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

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

Dr. Stephanie Jenkins
Dr. Stephanie Jenkins
Class of 1999 | Bangor High School, Maine

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

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

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

Jessica Kurr
Jessica Kurr
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.

Tiara Naputi
Tiara Naputi

Class of 2002 | Raymore-Peculiar High School, Missouri

Tiara Naputi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Global & International Studies at the University of California Irvine. She is committed to Indigenous rights and decolonization throughout Oceania. Her research and publications address communication, militarism, and the environment with a primary focus on the Mariana Islands and Micronesia. She also examines the contemporary role of the United States military and global militarism and empire in relation to Indigenous issues. She has testified several times 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 participated in Spanish language debates at the Universidad Pública de Navarra (Pamplona, Spain).

Tiara earned an 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 these graduate degrees, she coached the UT-Austin Policy Debate team and 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.

Sarah Parcak
Sarah Parcak
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.

Robert Putnam
Robert Putnam
Class of 1959 | Port Clinton High School, Ohio

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

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John Sexton
John Sexton
Class of 1959 | Brooklyn Preparatory School, New York

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

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Joe Shapiro
Joe Shapiro
Class of 1999 | Beaverton High School, Oregon

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

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

Jordyn Zimmerman
Jordyn Zimmerman

Class of 2016 | Mentor HS, Ohio

Jordyn Zimmerman is a passionate educator and disability advocate. After being diagnosed as autistic at a young age, she did not receive access to augmentative communication until the age of 18. That arduous journey fuels her beliefs around leveraging tools and supports to drive change. She now thrives on boldly showing up and redefining what is possible in learning spaces and throughout the broader community — and has personal experience challenging the status quo, which is featured in the 2021 documentary, This Is Not About Me

Technology enabled effective communication, and Jordyn began advocating through a series of presentations and keynotes around the world. She has played a pivotal role on several projects focused on accessibility — and her insights on autism and inclusion have been published in places such as The Boston Globe and The New York Times, as well as quotes in The 19th. Jordyn is Board Chair of the nonprofit CommunicationFIRST, an Apple Distinguished Educator, and is a two-time appointee on The United States Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Jordyn has this to say about the impact of speech and debate in her life » Speech and debate instilled me with a deep sense of confidence and a drive for connection. It taught me the power of sharing my story, honing in on my thoughts, thinking creatively, listening critically, and speaking in-depth about a singular topic, in a rather short period of time. Now, as a national presenter at conferences, speech and debate definitely contributes to my composure, poise, assessment of the audience, and ability to function well under pressure.”

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Kalen Allen
Kalen Allen
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.”

Brian Baumgartner
Brian Baumgartner
Class of 1991 | The Westminster Schools, Georgia

Brian Baumgartner is an actor best known for playing Kevin Malone in the American adaptation of The Office. His television roles include Jake in Progress, Arrested Development, and Everwood. He starred alongside Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, and John Krasinski in License to Wed. In June 2007, Baumgartner won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Broadband Program – Comedy, for his work on The Office: The Accountants webisodes. Baumgartner placed fourth in Dramatic Interpretation at the 1991 National Tournament. Watch the performance »

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Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman

T. L. Hanna High School, South Carolina

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

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Preston Boyd
Preston Boyd
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.

Benjamin Bratt
Benjamin Bratt

Class of 1982 | Lowell High School, CA

Benjamin Bratt is an actor and producer who is most known for playing Paco Aguilar in Blood In, Blood Out. He has also had supporting film roles in Demolition Man, Clear and Present Danger, and The River Wild. From 1995-1999, he starred as the NYPD Detective Rey Curtis on Law & Order.

In the 2000s, Bratt appeared in many films including Miss Congeniality (2000), Traffic (2000), Piñero (2001), Catwoman (2004), Trucker (2008), Despicable Me 2 (2013), Snitch (2013), and Coco (2017).

In high school, Benjamin joined the Lowell Forensic Society, one of the oldest high school speech and debate teams in the nation, founded in 1892.

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Nancy Cartwright
Nancy Cartwright
Class of 1976 | Fairmont West High School, Ohio

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

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Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain

Class of 1997 | Sacramento City College, CA

Jessica Chastain is an actress known for her exceptional talent and versatile performances across film, television, and theater. Chastain made her breakthrough in 2011 with her role in “The Help,” earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Since then, her notable roles in critically acclaimed films include “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Interstellar,” and “Molly’s Game.” She has earned multiple award nominations, including two Academy Award nominations and a Golden Globe win. Chastain is not only celebrated for her acting but also for her advocacy of gender equality and inclusion in Hollywood. She’s been a vocal supporter of women in the industry and has used her platform to address important social issues.

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

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

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Chris Colfer
Chris Colfer
Class of 2008 | Clovis East High School, California

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

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James Dean
James Dean
Class of 1949 | Fairmount High School, Indiana

James Dean was an American actor. He is remembered as a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and surly ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956). After his death, Dean became the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations.

Dean placed sixth in Dramatic Interpretation at the 1949 National Tournament.

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Joyce DeWitt
Joyce DeWitt
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.

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Zac Efron
Zac Efron
Class of 2006 | Arroyo Grande High School, California

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

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Billy Eichner
Billy Eichner
Class of 1996 | Stuyvesant High School, New York

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

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Josh Gad
Josh Gad

Class of 1999 | NSU University School, Florida

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

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

IN HIS WORDS | In this video, Gad explains how speech and debate helped make his dreams come true.

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Ginger Gonzaga
Ginger Gonzaga
Fred C. Beyer High School, California

Ginger is an improviser, actor, writer, and director. In television, Ginger is best known for her role as “Christy” on the Duplass Brothers’ critical darling Togetherness (2015) on HBO, “Maggie” on Showtime’s dramedy I’m Dying Up Here (2017), “Peggy” of FX’s Legit (2013), and “Lorena” on Hulu’s drama Chance (2016) opposite Hugh Laurie and Ethan Suplee. Ginger was also the lead of ABC’s Mixology (2013), and a regular on TBS’s Wrecked (2016), as well as the host of Hulu’s comedic daily pop culture recap show The Morning After (2011), for which she also wrote. Other television credits include her recurring roles on Mindy Kaling’s NBC comedy Champions (2018), Tad Quill’s Jane Lynch comedy Angel from Hell (2016) on CBS, NBC’s Trial & Error (2017), Comedy Central’s Key and Peele (2012), and Freeform’s Alone Together (2018). She was seen opposite Jim Carrey in the Michel Gondry directed Showtime series Kidding (2018).

Ginger’s film debut was in Seth MacFarlane’s popular 2012 comedy Ted (2012). She can also be seen in Demetri Martin’s comedy drama and Tribeca Film Festival Winner Dean (2016) (opposite Demetri Martin and Gillian Jacobs), as well as Henry Phillips’ Punching the Clown (2009) (opposite J.K Simmons and Jim Jefferies). She made her directorial debut with the short film Your Day (2017) starring herself and Jason Ritter, which she also wrote.

Ginger also sings and received a B.A in Political Science/International Relations and a minor in Chinese from UC Santa Barbara before training at The Groundings and Second City Theaters.

Becky Gulsvig
Becky Gulsvig
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!”

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LaRoyce Hawkins
LaRoyce Hawkins

Class of 2006 | Thornton Township High School, IL

LaRoyce Hawkins is an actor, stand-up comedian, spoken word artist, and musician. Hawkins stars on Chicago P.D., where he portrays Officer Kevin Atwater. Hawkins also has a regular role on the crossover show Chicago Fire. He has also made appearances in various television series, including Ballers, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Underemployed, and Detroit 1-8-7.

In 2005, Hawkins won the state speech championship for original comedy. As a senior, he again placed first in the state but in humorous duet acting along with his partner, Marketta Wilder.

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Brian Tyree Henry
Brian Tyree Henry

Class of 2000 | E E Smith High School, NC

Brian Tyree Henry is an actor who rose to prominence for his role as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles in the FX comedy-drama series Atlanta (2016–2022), for which he received a nomination for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. On tv, he is known for his performances in Boardwalk Empire, This Is Us, and How to Get Away with Murder

During an interview, Brian explained that his first experience in acting came about because of his friends. They were aware of his involvement in speech and debate, and they encouraged him to audition for a school play. “My friends Theo and Will were like, “We’re auditioning for this play, man, we know you used to do speech and debate, you should audition.” So I auditioned for Joe Turner’s Come and Gone—that was the play they were putting on—and I got the lead.

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Marcello Hernandez
Marcello Hernandez

Class of 2019 | John Carroll University, Ohio

Marcello Hernandez is a Cuban/Dominican stand-up comedian, writer, and actor who currently performs as a featured player on Saturday Night Live in New York City. Performing stand-up since he was 18 years old, Marcello has toured all over the country and has opened for headliners such as Jo Koy, Dave Chappelle, Tim Dillon, Colin Jost, and Gilbert Gottfried, among others. 

The first-generation Latino comedian played for the John Carroll Men’s Soccer and graduated from John Carroll University in 2019 with a degree in Entrepreneurship & Communication, TV & Screenwriting. During his time at JCU, Hernandez dove into his dreams. He became involved in Debate, Theater, and Improv.

A proud Miami native, in 2020 Marcello became the host and creative director for @onlyindade, a Miami-based account with over 1 Million Followers through which he has interviewed top celebrities such as Pit Bull, Floyd Mayweather, Nicky Jam, Mayor Francis Suarez, & more. He has had 10+ appearances on Telemundo’s Acceso Total & NBC’s 6 in the Mix, and was selected as a Just For Laughs New Face of Comedy in 2022.

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John Hoogenakker
John Hoogenakker

South Mecklenburg High School, North Carolina

John Hoogenakker is a stage, screen and commercial actor having played the Bud Light King in Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly” television commercials, Lt. Spellman in Chicago Fire, Matice in Jack Ryan, Carl Wilkes in Castle Rock, and Randy Ramseyer in Dopesick. Most recently John played Clive Doyle in the TV mini-series, Waco: The Aftermath.

In high school, John competed at two National Tournaments, 1994 in Kansas City, MO and 1995 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. His former classmate, Monica Williams, said he was best known on the debate team for humorous interpretations that bordered on stand-up comedy. “He could mimic someone just a minute after they walked away,” she recalls. “He took it seriously, too. It wasn’t a hobby or a habit. He loved performing.”

Check out Brian Baumgartner’s “Off the Beat” podcast with special guest John Hoogenakker »

Read more about John’s experience in HI »

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Chuck Huber
Chuck Huber

Class of 1989 | Trinity High School, TX

Chuck Huber is a voice actor who has provided numerous voices for Japanese anime series and video games. He is best known for his roles as Hiei in Yu Yu Hakusho, Dr. Franken Stein in Soul Eater, Pilaf in Dragon Ball, Shou Tucker in Fullmetal Alchemist, Android #17 in Dragon Ball Z, and Turner Grey in Ace Attorney.

Huber has also been a TV, film and stage actor for over 20 years, most notably at Chicago’s Steppenwolf and Goodman Theaters; as the Director/Writer of Arbor Day – The Musical; as a producer, co-writer and co-star of the bilingual feature Fragility of Seconds, which took the top prize at the Houston International Film Festival; and in guest starring roles on NBC, FOX, CBS dramas.

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David Henry Hwang
David Henry Hwang

Harvard School, California

David Henry Hwang is a playwright, screenwriter, television writer, and librettist whose stage works includes the plays M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Yellow Face, Kung Fu, Golden Child, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival), and Disney’s Tarzan. Hwang is a Tony Award winner and three-time nominee, a three-time OBIE Award winner, and a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is also America’s most-produced living opera librettist, whose works have been honored with two Grammy Awards, and he co-wrote the Gold Record Solo with the late pop star Prince. Hwang is currently a Writer/Consulting Producer for the Golden Globe-winning television series The Affair. His screenplays include Possession, M. Butterfly, and Golden Gate. Hwang was a Residency One Playwright at Signature Theatre, which produced a season of his plays, and M. Butterfly was recently revived on Broadway. His opera An American Soldier, with composer Huang Ruo, will premiere in June 2018 at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Recent honors include 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Master American Dramatist, the 2012 Inge Award, the 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright “Mimi” Award, a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, and a 2015 Ford Foundation “Art of Change” Award. He serves on the Board of the Lark Play Development Center, as Head of Playwriting at Columbia University School of the Arts, and as Chair of the American Theatre Wing.

Erik Jensen
Erik Jensen

Class of 1988 | Apple Valley HS, Minnesotta

Erik Jensen is an actor, playwright, screenwriter, documentarian, and director. His most recent work includes playing Dez O’Reilly in For Life, Thurman Munson in the ESPN miniseries, The Bronx is Burning, and Dr. Stephen Edwards on The Walking Dead. 

Erik has written and co-written a number of plays including The Exonerated, Aftermath, Almost Home, How to Be A Rock Critic, and Coal Country. The Exonerated, a play based on interviews with more than 40 exonerated death row inmates, ran for more than 600 performances off-Broadway, toured nationally, was adapated as a movie for Court TV, and won a number of awards.

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Cherry Jones
Cherry Jones
Henry County High School, Tennessee

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

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Colin Jost
Colin Jost

Class of 2000 | Regis High School, NY

Colin Jost has been a staff writer on Saturday Night Live since 2005 and co-anchor of Weekend Update since 2014. He has also been a co-head writer for the show from 2012-2015 and 2017 – 2022.

Jost participated in Duo Interpretation during high school and had this to say in an interview with NPR, “It was so fun to be on the road with your friends, be away from home, have your full freedom and go and do something that was creatively rewarding like that, it was like a miracle. It was so fun to do. And, you know, it made me feel good. It gave me a lot of self-esteem because, again, it was such a struggle early on in my life that I’ve really liked the challenge of trying to get better at it.”

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Daniel Beaty
KOA

KOA, the artist formerly known as Daniel Beaty, is a visionary actor, singer, writer, and social entrepreneur who lives at the intersection of art, spirit, and social change. Raised in Dayton, Ohio, KOA grew up the child of a heroin addicted, incarcerated father, and younger sibling to a brother addicted to crack cocaine. KOA learned early on that the arts can help heal childhood trauma, transform pain into power, and inspire a new generation of change makers to dismantle the systemic racism and oppression at the core of the challenges KOA, his father, brother, and so many Americans face.

KOA has spent his life telling stories that share both the truth of who we are as people and his hope for a better world. He believes these stories have the power to move us and inspire us, as individuals and as a society, to transform ourselves and the world: to confront our pain, imagine a better world, and work together to achieve it. KOA has developed an awarding winning body of work that includes his plays Through the Night, Emergency, Mr. Joy, and The Tallest Tree in the Forest – Paul Robeson. These works have been performed at venues ranging from maximum security prisons to The Public Theater, Lincoln Center and White House. He has garnered numerous awards including an Obie award for writing and performance and five NAACP Theater Awards. A highly requested performer and keynote speaker, KOA has worked throughout the U.S., Europe, and Africa. In these turbulent times of social change facing the nation, KOA has continued to develop work that confronts, heals and nurtures us all.

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David Lindsay-Abaire
David Lindsay-Abaire

Class of 1986 |Milton Academy, Massachusetts

David Lindsay-Abaire is a playwright, screenwriter, and lyricist. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007 for his play Rabbit Hole, which also earned several Tony Award nominations. Lindsay-Abaire won both the 2023 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and Tony Award for Best Original Score for the musical adaptation of his play Kimberly Akimbo.

David also wrote the book and lyrics for Shrek the Musical, which was nominated for eight Tonys, four Oliviers, a Grammy, and earned David the Ed Kleban Award as America’s most promising musical-theatre lyricist. David’s other plays include Ripcord, Fuddy Meers, Wonder of the World and A Devil Inside, among others. In addition to his work in theatre, David’s screen credits include his film adaptation of Rabbit Hole, Dreamworks’ Rise of the Guardians, and Family Fang.

David is also currently the Co-Director of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard.

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John Lithgow
John Lithgow

Class of 1963 | Princeton High School, NJ

John Lithgow is an actor best known for starring as Dick Solomon in the television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. He also acted as Arthur Mitchell in the drama Dexter, Winston Churchill in the Netflix series The Crown. He also starred in HBO’s Perry Mason and FX’s The Old Man.

He has been the recipient of numerous accolades including six Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two Tony Awards. He has received nominations for two Academy Awards, a BAFTA Award, and four Grammy Awards. 

In his memoir, Drama: An Actor’s Education, he wrote, “In tenth grade, the following  year, I dusted off Twelfth Night once again. I performed it as a monologue in the category of “Humorous Declamation,” for Buchtel High’s National Forensic League team. On Saturday’s I would travel with a busload of brainy debaters to tournaments held in empty high schools all over north-central Ohio. The others would debate and I would perform, competing with teams  from all over the region.”

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Shelley Long
Shelley Long
Class of 1967 | South Side High School, Indiana

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

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Brian McBride
Brian McBride

Westbury High School, TX

Brian McBride was a musician best known as one half of the duo Stars of the Lid. He also released two solo albums, When The Detail Lost Its Freedom and The Effective Disconnect. Both McBride and band mate Wiltzie were stunned to see Stars of the Lid audiences grow, both in size and diversity, in the 2000s. Many of their records are now recognized as some of the best ambient albums of all time.

McBride was also an active member of the policy debate community, directing the University of Texas National Institute of Forensics’ high school debate camp. He also coached Northwestern University to win three NDTs, the University of Redlands to reach the NDT quarterfinals twice, and the University of Southern California to various wins for more than a decade.

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Idina Menzel
Idina Menzel
Syosset High School, New York

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

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Hasan Minhaj
Hasan Minhaj

Class of 2003 | Davis Senior High School, California

Hasan Minhaj is a comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. Minhaj’s Netflix series Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj won an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award, two Webby Awards and was cited for his inclusion on Time’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019. Minhaj also holds a recurring role in The Morning Show, guest hosts The Daily Show, and hosted the 38th Independent Spirit Awards.

Minhaj says this about his experience in speech and debate,I had been doing speech and debate in forensics in high school. My event was impromptu and impromptu is really hard. It was one of the things that prime’s you the most for stand-up comedy. I didn’t know these were the seeds for what you need to do as a comedian so by the time I got to college and I started to see stand-up comedy for the first time I thought to myself, “Oh, this is speech and debate…but funny.”

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Anson Mount
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 and Jim Steele on Conviction. He has also starred as Black Bolt in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and as Captain Christopher Pike in the Star Trek series Discovery, Short Treks, and Strange New Worlds.

His podcast The Well features interviews with innovators and creators about how they think outside the box.

Anson placed among the top 40 contestants in Dramatic Interpretation at the 1991 National Tournament.

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Jared Padalecki
Jared Padalecki

Class of 2000 | James Madison High School, TX

Jared Padalecki is an actor best known for his TV roles in Supernatural and Walker. 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 films such as New York Minute, House of Wax, and Friday the 13th.

Padalecki and his partner were national champions in Duo Interpretation at the 1998 National Tournament. Check out his performance »

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Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele
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.

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Kal Penn
Kal Penn
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.

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Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt
Class of 1982 | Kickapoo High School, Missouri

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

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Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd
Class of 1987 | Shawnee Mission West High School, Kansas

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

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Danielle Schneider
Danielle Schneider

Class of 1993 | Spanish River Community, Florida

Danielle Schneider is an actress, writer, and improvisational comedian from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. She co-created and starred in the Hulu reality TV parody series The Hotwives and currently co-hosts the podcast Bitch Sesh.

Schneider is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has been a performer and teacher at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City and Los Angeles, where she was a member of one of UCB’s original improvisational comedy troupes Respecto Montalban.

On December 2, 2015, Schneider and Casey Wilson began hosting the podcast Bitch Sesh, where they and a guest have comedic discussions about the previous night’s episode of The Real Housewives, as well as other topics related to the Bravo channel. Websites including Vulture, Entertainment Weekly and The A.V. Club ranked Bitch Sesh among the best comedy podcasts of 2016.

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Heidi Schreck
Heidi Schreck

Class of 1989 | Wenatchee High School, WA

Heidi Schreck is a playwright, screenwriter, and actress. Her play, “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which she also performs in, was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Awards for 2019 Best Play and Best Actress in a Play. Heidi’s play is partially autobiographical, relating her real-life experience in participating in speech and debate as a teenager. The play was picked up as a movie for streaming by Amazon in 2020.

In a comment about her play, Heidi said, “I would say those things, like my dad’s love of history, my mom’s love of theater, my great debate coach at high school, all shaped [me into] the artist I became [and] the writer,” Schreck said. “They certainly had a huge effect on the making of this play, which is about being a teenage girl in Wenatchee doing debate.”

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Katy Selverstone
Katy Selverstone
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.

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Yara Shahidi
Yara Shahidi

Class of 2017 | Dwight Global Online School

Yara Shahidi is an actress and activist known for her portrayal of Zoey Johnson in the hit TV series, Black-ish, which led to her starring role in the spin-off series, Grown-ish.

She has been nominated for numerous awards and has received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, BET Award for YoungStar, Gracie Award for Outstanding Female Actor in a Breakthrough Role, and more.

Beyond her acting career, Yara is recognized for her advocacy work, particularly in promoting education and social justice.

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Jenny Slate
Jenny Slate

Class of 2000 | Milton Academy, Massachusetts

Jenny Slate is an actress, stand-up comedian, and writer. She is best known as a cast member on SNL from 2009-2010, followed by roles in Bob’s Burgers, Parks and Recreation, House of Lies, and Kroll Show. She also co-created, wrote, and produced the children’s short film and book series Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2010–present). Most recently, she appeared in the science-fiction film Everything Everywhere All at Once, winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

About her time in speech and debate, Jenny said, “When I was a senior in high school, my biggest achievement shifted from being a speech team champion to being on the French kissing market after years of not being even allowed in the marketplace. And when it came time for me to go to the national speech and debate championship and fight for my speech team’s place in our world, I chose instead to skip it and try to kiss this guy Travis.”

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Brent Spiner
Brent Spiner
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.

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Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen
Class of 1967 | Freehold Borough High School, New Jersey

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

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Jason Sudeikis
Jason Sudeikis

Class of 1994 | Shawnee Mission West High School, KS

Jason Sudeikis is an actor, comedian, writer, and producer who began his career in improv and found fame as a cast member on Saturday NIght Live from 2005 to 2013. More recently, Jason co-created and starred as the lead in Ted Lasso earning him Emmy’s for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, two Golden Globes for Best Actor in a TV Comedy Series, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series.

Sudeikis has also had the lead role in many feature films including Horrible Bosses (1 & 2), We’re the Millers, Downsizing, and more.

Fun Fact: Both Jason and Paud Rudd participated in speech and debate at Shawnee Mission West High School and were coached by Sally Shipley.

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Maria Thayer
Maria Thayer
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.

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Kenan Thompson
Kenan Thompson
Class of 1996 | Woodward Academy, Georgia

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

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Stephen Tobolowsky
Stephen Tobolowsky
Justin F. Kimball High School, Texas

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

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

Michael Urie
Michael Urie

Class of 1998 | Plano Senior High School, Texas

Michael Urie has performed on both the screen and the stage as an actor, producer, director, and host. Urie is best known for his role as Marc St. James on Ugly Betty. He has also starred on Broadway in the Tony nominated revival of Torch Song and more recently as William Shakespeare in Jane Anger. He also stars as Brian in the Apple+ television series, Shrinking with Jason Segel and Harrison Ford released in Jan. 2023.

Urie won the national championship in Dramatic Interpretation at the 1998 National Tournament. Watch his performance, “Confessions of a Nightingale” »

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Michael Benjamin Washington
Michael Benjamin Washington

Class of 1997 | Plano Sr HS, TX

Michael Benjamin Washington is an actor known for his roles in American Auto, 100 Questions, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. He has also performed in Broadway productions of The Boys in the Band, Funny Girl, Mamma Mia!, La Cage aux Folles, and others.

During his speech & debate career, he became the Humorous Interpretation Champion in 1996 and the Dramatic Interpretation Champion in 1997. 

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Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
Class of 1971 | East Nashville High School, Tennessee

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

IN HER WORDS | “Forensics gives you a sense of confidence in speaking in front of people, a sense of presence, and a sense of pride. It’s about the power of words to influence ideas, to uncover a higher truth, to change minds, and for a lot of people, even to change lives.”

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BD Wong
BD Wong
Class of 1978 | Lincoln High School, California

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

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Bowen Yang
Bowen Yang

Class of 2008 | Smoky Hill HS, Colorado

Bowen Yang is a comedian, writer, and actor who gained prominence as a cast member on the sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live”. Yang joined the SNL cast in 2019, becoming the show’s first Chinese-American and third openly gay male cast member. Yang has garnered critical acclaim for his comedic performances, including making history by becoming the first SNL featured player to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in 2021.

He co-hosts a comedy pop-culture podcast, Las Culturistas, with Matt Rogers and has appeared in the television series Girls5Eva, Ziwe, and The Other Two, and is a cast member on Awkwafina is Nora from Queens. He is also known for his appearances in the LGBTQ romantic comedies Fire Island and Bros, both released in 2022.

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Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams

Class of 1991 |Avondale High School, GA

Stacey Abrams is a politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and an author. She served as the minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011-2017 and has been widely credited with boosting voter turnout in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election. Stacey has authored eleven books, both fiction and nonfiction, and was nominated for an Emmy for her voice-over work in a special episode of Black-ish.

Stacey was hired as the inaugural Ronald W. Walters Endowed Chair for Race and Black Politics at Howard University in 2023.

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Rebecca Blank
Rebecca Blank

Alexander Ramsey High School, Minnesota

Rebecca Blank was an economist and worked as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2013-2022. Blank served as United States Deputy Secretary of Commerce when she was named to lead the United States Department of Commerce as Acting Secretary in 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.

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G.T. Bynum
G.T. Bynum

Class 0f 1996 | Cascia Hall Preparatory, Oklahoma

George Theron Bynum IV is an American politician and lobbyist who has served as the 40th mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma since 2016. Bynum was first elected to the Tulsa City Council representing the ninth district in 2008 as a Republican and served four terms before running for mayor in 2016. His achievements in office have brought him national and international recognition from his Ted Talk on replacing partisanship with policy to his international keynote address at the British Government’s Leadership Conference.

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

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

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Joaquin Castro
Joaquín Castro
Thomas Jefferson High School, Texas

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

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Frank G. Clement
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.”

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William J. Crowe Jr.
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.”

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Steve Daines
Steve Daines
Class of 1980 | Bozeman High School, Montana

Steve Daines is a United States Senator from Montana. He previously was the U.S. Representative for Montana’s at-large congressional district from 2013 to 2015. In the 2014 midterm election, he won an open seat, defeating Democrat Amanda Curtis. Prior to his career in public office, Daines spent 13 years with Procter & Gamble, where he helped expand their business to Hong Kong and China.

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Diana DeGette
Diana DeGette

Class of 1975 | Denver-South High School, CO

Diana DeGette is a lawyer and politician serving as the U.S. representative for Colorado’s 1st congressional district since 1997. DeGette was a Chief Deputy Whip from 2005 to 2019 and is the dean of Colorado’s congressional delegation.

DeGette is recognized as a leading voice in the nation’s health care debate. As a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, DeGettehas played a leading role in overseeing the nation’s health care agencies and the nation’s overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s also led numerous efforts to ensure the nation’s environmental laws are being properly enforced, lower the cost of insulin for millions of Americans and take on the climate crisis.

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Viet Dinh
Viet Dinh
Fullerton High School, California

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

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Russ Feingold
Russ Feingold
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.

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Bob Graham
Bob Graham
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.

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Thamar E. Harrigan
Thamar E. Harrigan

Class of 2000 | North Miami Beach Senior High School, Florida

Thamar E. Harrigan is the Chief of Staff and White House Liaison of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, a U.S. government agency that helps companies create U.S. jobs through the export of U.S. goods and services for priority infrastructure projects in emerging economies. USTDA links U.S. businesses to export opportunities by funding project preparation and partnership building activities that develop sustainable infrastructure and foster economic growth in partner countries.
Prior to joining USTDA, Ms. Harrigan served as an international trade attorney, most recently through her own international trade and consulting firm. During the Obama Administration, she was the Senior Advisor for Intergovernmental Relations in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and in that capacity, helped to manage implementation of HUD’s policies, programs and initiatives, while shaping the agency’s interactions with state, local, and tribal governments. 

Ms. Harrigan is a co-founder and served as legal counsel of the Haitian Ladies Network, the largest global platform connecting more than 75,000 women and girls of Haitian descent from across the U.S., Haiti, and around the world. She has served as Vice President of Government Relations and Sponsorship for the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT).  She was the Secretary General for 2020 G7 Youth Summit for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP) and served as the organization’s Director of Youth Summits.

Ms. Harrigan holds a JD degree from St. Thomas University School of Law, and a LLM in International Business Law degree from the National University of Singapore in a joint program with East China University of Political Science and Law.  She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Florida.  Ms. Harrigan is a licensed attorney in the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Rashad Hussain
Rashad Hussain

Class of  1997 | Greenhill School, Texas

Rashad Hussain is an attorney, diplomat, and professor, who currently serves as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. He previously served as associate White House counsel, as U.S. Special Envoy of President Barack Obama to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the U.S. Special Envoy for strategic counterterrorism communications. Hussain has also served on the United States National Security Council and in the Department of Justice as a trial attorney and a criminal and national security prosecutor.

Rashad was a member of Greenhill High School’s nationally recognized policy-debate team, partnering with Josh Goldberg, to win the Texas state debate championship and a number of national competitions.

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Kevin Kiley
Kevin Kiley

Class of  2003 | Granite Bay High School, California

Kevin Kiley is a politician, attorney, and former educator serving as the U.S. representative for California’s 3rd congressional district since 2023. He represented the 6th district in the California State Assembly from 2016 to 2022. Kiley was a candidate to replace California governor Gavin Newsom in the voter-initiated recall election on September 14, 2021.

Kiley graduated from Harvard University in 2007 and became a teacher for Teach for America upon graduation, teaching for two years at Manual Arts High School and starting an award-winning speech and debate team. Kevin also holds a law degree from Yale and a master’s in secondary education from Loyola Marymount, where he participated in speech and debate.

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Richard Lugar
Richard Lugar

Shortridge High School, IN

Richard Lugar served as a United States senator, representing Indiana from 1977 to 2013. During Lugar’s tenure, he served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, serving as the ranking member of the committee from 2007 until his departure in 2013. Lugar also twice served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Much of Lugar’s work in the Senate was toward the dismantling of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons around the world.

Following his service in the Senate, Lugar established The Lugar Center, a nonprofit public policy institution that focuses on global food security, foreign aid effectiveness, bipartisan governance, and WMD nonproliferation.

Since 2021, the Congressional Senate Debate Final Round has been named after Richard Lugar. Learn more »

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Dr. Michael McFaul
Dr. Michael McFaul
Class of 1981 | Bozeman High School, Montana

Dr. Michael McFaul is an American academic who served as the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. Prior to his nomination to the ambassadorial position, McFaul worked for the U.S. National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and senior director of Russian and Eurasian affairs. After his tenure as ambassador in Moscow, McFaul returned to Stanford University as a professor of political science.

In high school debate, McFaul advocated for a repeal of the Jackson–Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act to increase trade between the Soviet Union and America. Thirty years later, McFaul was part of the team that accomplished that goal.

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Janet Reno
Janet Reno
Coral Gables High School, Florida

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

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Tom Ridge
Tom Ridge

Class of 1963 | Erie-Cathedral High School, Pennsylvania

Thomas Ridge is a politician and author who served in the George W. Bush administration as the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security from 2001 to 2003 and as the United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. He was the first person to hold either office. 

Ridge previously served in the United States House of Representatives from 1983 to 1995 and as the 43rd governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001. He also authored a book in 2009 entitled, The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…and How We Can Be Safe Again.

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Terri Sewell
Terri Sewell
Class of 1982 | Selma High School, Alabama

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

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Jake Sullivan
Jake Sullivan

Class of 1994 | Southwest High School, MN

Jake Sullivan is an American political advisor who currently serves as the United States National Security Advisor to President Joe Biden. He was previously Director of Policy to President Barack Obama, National Security Advisor to then Vice President Biden and Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary Hillary Clinton at the U.S. Department of State. Sullivan also served as Senior Advisor to the U.S. federal government at the Iran nuclear negotiations and Senior Policy Advisor to Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, as well as visiting professor at Yale Law School.

In high school, Jake was a Coca-Cola Scholar, debate champion, president of the student council, and voted “most likely to succeed” in his class. He went on to earn a Truman Scholarship as a junior at Yale University and competed with the Yale Debate Association.

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Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren
Class of 1966 | Northwest Classen High School, Oklahoma

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

IN HER WORDS | In this video, Warren explains how her experience with speech and debate taught her valuable skills.

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Law

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

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

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

Preet Bharara
Preet Bharara
Class of 1986 | Ranney School, New Jersey

Preet Bharara is a lawyer, podcast host, and author. He served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 to 2017, earning a reputation of a “crusader” prosecutor. Under his leadership, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York prosecuted nearly 100 Wall Street executives for insider trading and other offenses. In 2019, he released a book entitled Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law.

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Lisa Blatt
Lisa Blatt
Class of 1993 | Bellaire-Houston High School, Texas

Lisa Blatt heads the Appellate and Supreme Court practice at Arnold & Porter. Blatt has argued 35 cases before the Supreme Court, prevailing in 33. She has argued in front of the Supreme Court more than any other female litigator in the country. The National Law Journal called her a “visionary” and one of “the 100 most influential lawyers in America.” The Washingtonian has listed her as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Washington” four times, and Chambers USA has noted her “meticulous oral argument preparation and ‘great presence before the court.'” Her oral advocacy is cited as exemplary in the Supreme Court Clerk’s Guide for Counsel.

Josh Branson
Josh Branson
Class of 2002 | St. Mark’s School of Texas, Texas

Josh Branson is a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick PLLC. Josh specializes in complex civil litigation, with particular experience in securities, antitrust, telecommunications, and anti-terrorism cases. While at the firm, he has delivered oral argument in multiple U.S. Courts of Appeals and has represented clients throughout all phases of district-court and appellate litigation. Prior to joining Kellogg Hansen, Josh served as a law clerk to the Honorable Diana Gribbon Motz on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was a research assistant to legendary debater Professor Laurence Tribe.

Josh was a national champion debater in both high school and college. In high school, he won the 2002 National Forensic League (now NSDA) national championship in Policy Debate. In 2005, debating for Northwestern University, he won the National Debate Tournament. In 2006, he was named top speaker of the National Debate Tournament and set what was then a record for the highest speaker points awarded in the history of that tournament.

Stephen Breyer
Stephen Breyer
Class of 1955 | San Francisco-Lowell High School, California

Stephen G. Breyer is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Breyer received an A.B. from Stanford University, a B.A. from Magdalen College, Oxford, and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School. President Clinton nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat August 3, 1994. Breyer is generally associated with the more liberal side of the Court. Breyer has extensive experience in administrative law and is the Court’s leading purposivist—considering, determining, and interpreting the purpose of a statute paramount.

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IN HIS WORDS | Read this letter written by Justice Breyer about his time in debate, courtesy of Tara L. Tate.

Paul Clement
Paul Clement
Class of 1984 | Cedarburg High School, Wisconsin

Paul Clement is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Paul served as the 43rd Solicitor General of the United States from June 2005 until June 2008. Before his confirmation as Solicitor General, he served as Acting Solicitor General for nearly a year and as Principal Deputy Solicitor General for over three years.

He has argued more than 90 cases before the United States Supreme Court, including McConnell v. FEC, Tennessee v. Lane, Rumsfeld v. Padilla, Credit Suisse v. Billing, United States v. Booker, MGM v. Grokster, ABC v. Aereo, and Hobby Lobby v. Burwell. Paul has argued more Supreme Court cases since 2000 than any lawyer in or out of government. He has also argued many important cases in the lower courts, including Walker v. Cheney, United States v. Moussaoui, and NFL v. Brady.

Robert J. Feldhake
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.

David Frederick
David Frederick

Class of 1979 | Thomas Jefferson High School, TX

David Frederick is an appellate attorney and is a partner with Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, P.L.L.C. Frederick has argued more than 100 appeals, including 50 in the U.S. Supreme Court, and appeared in every federal court of appeals. Frederick has represented clients across the broadest possible spectrum, including individuals, labor unions, large and small corporations, states, the United States, and foreign governments.

When he graduated from high school, he was the all-time point leader in the history of the National Forensic League, the predecessor to the NSDA. Coached by legendary NSDA Hall of Fame coach Lanny Naegelin, Frederick was second at the National Speech Tournament in Original Oratory in 1977 and second at Nationals in Boys’ Extemp in 1979. His team at Jefferson High School won the national team championship in 1979.

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Thomas Goldstein
Thomas Goldstein
Class of 1999 | NSU University School, Florida

Tom Goldstein is an appellate advocate, best known as one of the nation’s most experienced Supreme Court practitioners. He has served as counsel to one of the parties in roughly 10% of all of the Court’s merits cases for the past 15 years (more than 100 in total), personally arguing 41. Only three lawyers in the Court’s modern history have argued more cases in private practice. He has been counsel on more successful petitions for certiorari over the past decade than any other lawyer in private practice. Over the past 15 years, the firm’s petitions for certiorari have been granted at a higher rate than any private law firm or legal clinic.

Lindsay Harrison<br />
Lindsay Harrison

Class of 1996 | Greenhill School, Texas

Lindsay Harrison is a Managing Partner at Jenner & Block in the Washington D.C. office. Her personal practice spans a range of industries with a special focus on hospitality and real estate companies, colleges and universities, technology and media companies and nonprofit organizations. Lindsay is also a member of the Appellate & Supreme Court Practice, and regularly represents individuals in high-profile cases implicating human and constitutional rights.

Lindsay has argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and federal Courts of Appeals, and has led lawsuits against or involving the government. She led the Jenner & Block team that won a major victory preserving the DACA program in the U.S. Supreme Court after the government in 2017 attempted to rescind the program. 

Lindsay’s advice to speech and debate students wanting to pursue a career in law, “To me, reading prolifically and writing clearly and efficiently are the two best things you can do to become a really skilled lawyer.

Check out Lindsay’s full Rostrum article » Speak Your Truth and Love What You Do

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Alex Iftimie
Alex Iftimie
Class of 2003 | The Harker School, California

Alex Iftimie is an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where he has served in various roles including Counselor to the Attorney General, Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. Prior to joining DOJ, he clerked for the Honorable Diana Gribbon Motz on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Alex completed his J.D. at Yale Law School. He received his B.A. in international relations at the University of Southern California, graduating summa cum laude with election to Phi Beta Kappa.

At Yale, he was elected Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Journal of International Law and worked in the Civil Liberties and National Security Clinic. During his law school summers, Alex worked at the White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice. He is a recipient of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans and a Fellow at the Truman National Security Project. Born in Romania, he came to the United States when he was 12, following the Romanian revolution. He is a naturalized citizen and his family resides in southern California.

Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson

Class of 1988 | Miami Palmetto Senior High School, Florida

Ketanji Brown Jackson is an attorney and the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. She is also the first Supreme Court justice to have served as a public defender. Prior to her role on the Supreme Court, Jackson served as a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia since 2013.

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Miami, Florida, Jackson joined speech and debate under coach, Fran Berger. “That was an experience that I can say without hesitation was the one activity that best prepared me for future success in law and in life,” Judge Jackson said in a lecture in 2017. “I learned how to reason and how to write, and I gained the self-confidence that can sometimes be quite difficult for women and minorities to learn at an early age.” Jackson placed sixth in Humorous Interpretation at the National Tournament in 1988.

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Jeff Joseph
Jeff Joseph
Class of 1990 | Jesuit High School, Florida

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

Neal Katyal
Neal Katyal
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).

Anna M. Manasco
Anna M. Manasco

Class of 1998 | Saint James School, Alabama

Anna M. Manasco is an attorney and a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. 

From 2009 to 2020, she was a partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings where her practice focused on trial strategy and appeals in complex commercial litigation. She had represented clients before the Supreme Court of the United States, numerous federal courts of appeals, and the Supreme Court of Alabama.

Anna was a runner-up of the 1998 Tournament of Champions in Lincoln–Douglas debate. Recently, she participated at the National Speech & Debate Tournament in Phoenix, AZ as a judge. This is inspiring,” she said. “They are spending their summer learning how to have informed, civil discourse about really controversial and important issues.

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Grace Mead
Grace Mead
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.

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Katherine Marie Menendez
Katherine Marie Menendez

Class of 1989 | Topeka HS, Kansas

Katherine Marie Menendez is an American attorney serving as a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. She served as a magistrate judge of the same court. She was nominated to the court by President Joe Biden on September 20, 2021, and confirmed by the United States Senate on December 18, 2021, by a vote of 49-21.

As a competitor, Katherine was a state champion in U.S. Extemp and a runner-up in Policy Debate (CX) at Nationals 1989 in Golden, CO.

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Melissa Murray
Melissa Murray

Class of 1993 | Lincoln Park Academy High School, Florida

Melissa Murray is an academic and legal scholar and the Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law at New York University. Following law school, Melissa clerked for Sonia Sotomayor and Stafan R. Underhill. She was the only African American clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Prior to her tenure at NYU, Murray taught at UC Berkeley where she was appointed faculty director of the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice, the United States’ first law school think tank to focus on reproductive rights and justice issues.

Since 2019, Murray has co-hosted the podcast Strict Scrutiny, which focuses on SCOTUS and its legal culture. 

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Lindsey Poker
Lindsey Poker
Class of 2004 | Apple Valley High School, Minnesota

Lindsey Poker has more than 10 years of experience in legal, procurement, and consumer/creditor rights. Lindsey spent five years at a law firm in a variety of roles and a short stint in sports journalism reporting on the Minnesota Twins. Lindsey joined U.S. Bank as a contract negotiator in March 2011. She was promoted to Vice President and Senior Procurement Manager in 2013 where she was responsible for the strategic sourcing department and the vendor management at U.S. Bank. She now serves as the Vice President-Region Operations Manager for the Inland Desert area overseeing compliance and operations for approximately 60 branches.

She received a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Drake University, an MBA from the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management, and a juris doctor from William Mitchell College of Law.

Speech and debate has always played a major role in Lindsey’s life. She spent five years coaching at Apple Valley High School and attributes most of her career success to the public speaking and critical thinking skills she learned through speech and debate. More importantly, Lindsey met her husband through the AVHS speech and debate program.

David Sklansky
David Sklansky
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.

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Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor
Class of 1972 | Cardinal Spellman High School, New York

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

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Download this poster featuring Sonia Sotomayor in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month!

Mark E. Windham
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.”

Technology

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

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

Michael Biddick
Michael Biddick
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.”

Jackie Bavaro<br />
Jackie Bavaro

Class of 2000 | Hackley School, New York

Jackie Bavaro has over 15 years of product management experience, most recently as head of product management at Asana. During her tenure, she grew the PM team to over 20 people, helped Asana go from $0 to more than $100 million in annual recurring revenue, and launched Asana’s Associate Product Manager (APM) program. She has worked as a PM for Google and Microsoft as well, and in a diverse set of PM roles-consumer, B2B, platform, mobile, and growth. Her first co-authored book, Cracking the PM Interview, has been credited with helping to level the playing field for PM talent. Jackie graduated from Cornell University with a double major in Computer Science and Economics. She currently writes, coaches, and advises from her home in San Francisco, California.

Frances Haugen
Frances Haugen

Class of 2002 | Iowa City West High School, Iowa

Frances Haugen is a data engineer, scientist, product manager, and Facebook whistleblower. In 2021, she disclosed tens of thousands of Facebook’s internal documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and The Wall Street Journal

In 2019, Haugen joined Facebook and while she was there, decided it was important to become a whistleblower due to what she has since described as a pattern of Facebook prioritizing profit over public safety.

Since whistle blowing, Frances has appeared in front of the US Congress, Parliament of the United Kingdom, and European Parliament. She is now working on establishing a non-profit to enhance awareness of the harms of social media.

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Ann Miura-Ko
Ann Miura-Ko

Class of 1994 | Palo Alto High School, California

Ann Miura-Ko is the co-founding partner at seed-stage VC firm, Floodgate. She is currently #18 on the Forbes Midas Seed List, a list of the top venture investors, and is on the New York Times global top 20 venture capitalists list. Ann made early investments in Lyft and saw her stake grow by 10,000x when it went public in 2019. She still holds a seat on the company’s board. She also invests in newer companies like SmarterDX, TerraDot, Roo, and Polygence.

Ann is a co-director of the Stanford Mayfield Fellows Program, a selective program teaching entrepreneurship and leadership to twelve undergraduates. She is a co-founding member of AllRaise, a nonprofit on a mission to accelerate the success of female founders and funders. Ann is on the Board of Trustees at Yale University where she was an undergrad.

About her time in speech and debate, Miura-Ko says, “I think if I hadn’t taken speech and debate, I wouldn’t have gotten over [my fear of public speaking].

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Craig Newmark
Craig Newmark

Class of 1971 | Morristown High School, NJ

Craig Newmark is an internet entrepreneur and philanthropist best known as the founder of the website Craigslist. Prior to founding Craigslist, he worked as a computer programmer for companies such as IBM, Bank of America, and Charles Schwab. Newmark served as Chief Executive Officer of Craigslist from its founding until 2000. 

In 2015, Newmark founded Craig Newmark Philanthropies by which he has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to address cybersecurity, misinformation, journalism, combating harassment of journalists, and food security. He has been known to say, “As a nerd, I don’t know why I need a billion dollars.”

In 2005, Time magazine listed Newmark as one of the 100 people shaping the world.

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Bo Ren
Bo Ren

Class of 2006 | Lincoln High School, Oregon

Bo Ren is the Managing Director of Early Stage Startups at Silicon Valley Bank in New York City. Bo mentors and advises startups at the beginning stages of their journey. Before joining SVB, Bo invested in and led ecosystem strategy at Samsung Next. There, she specialized in AI/ML, data privacy and deep tech and helped entrepreneurs and innovators build, grow, and scale their software and services ideas and businesses.

Bo also is a writer and has been featured in The Atlantic, The New York Times, FastCompany, and Women 2.0.  She has spoken at a number of conferences including TEDx University of Rochester, Canvas (Birmingham), Design for Action (Chicago), Habit Summit (Stanford), and Lead The Product (Melbourne) on topics ranging from interdisciplinary thinking, designing products for behavioral change, millennial career paths, and why curiosity matters.

Bo is a mentor and cofounder of Gold Rush, an accelerator which invests and supports early-stage AAPI founders.

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Michael Reszler
Michael Reszler
Class of 1987 | Aberdeen Central High School, South Dakota

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

Justin Rosenstein
Justin Rosenstein
Class of 2001 | College Prep, California

Justin Rosenstein is the co-founder of Asana, along with Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. Asana builds software that many of the world’s most important organizations use to achieve better results by tracking their work with less effort. The company’s mission is to help humanity thrive by enabling all teams to work together effortlessly.

Justin has led the development of products that billions of people use daily. At Facebook, he co-invented and led the development of the Like Button and Facebook Pages, and designed the in-house project management system that Facebook relies on to this day. At Google, he co-invented Google Drive and Gmail Chat.

Justin is also the co-founder of One Project, an emerging non-profit whose mission is to inspire the brightest minds to work on the highest-impact projects for creating social good.

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Ben Silbermann
Ben Silbermann

Class of 1999 | Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Iowa

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

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