Joel Barlow Student Wins Northeast Debate Championship

Litz lit the Barlow fire!

Sophomore Graham Litz became the Northeastern Champion of the Ronald Reagan Great Communicator Debate Series. He finished number one May 9 in an online competition among a field of 89 speakers representing 48 schools from 18 states. 

Through a 13-hour gauntlet, he went undefeated in 10 consecutive rounds of debate including five prelims, and five elimination rounds. In addition to facing 10 student opponents, he took questions from more than twenty adult judges. The tournament was a prepared event, asking individual speakers to debate whether states are more effective at legislating to improve the environment than the federal government.

Earning the Northeastern title in theory wins him an all-expense-paid trip to compete for the national crown and a $25,000 prize at the Ronald Reagan National Library in Simi Valley, Calif. in July. The three-day trip would include a private tour of the library, dinner under the wings of Air Force One, and a chance to meet six other regional champions from across the country. If that proves not to be possible, the tournament will be online.

Graham follows in the footsteps of Barlow alum Caroline Ryng ’13, who won the Reagan Northeast Regional Championship in her senior year. The Reagan library website says that the debate was intended to “develop engaged, informed, and conscientious citizen leaders by hosting a national series of high school debates. The debates search for students who can effectively use logic, evidence, and personality to communicate their ideas, just as Ronald Reagan did throughout his life.”

On the previous Sunday, Graham’s usual debate partner, sophomore Ben Fligelman, won glory as he competed at the first virtual tournament offered by the Debate Association of New England Independent Schools, a regional prepared speech event hosted remotely by Northfield Mount Hermon, in Gill, Mass.

Ben’s original satirical rendering of Augustus helping to orient the UN General Assembly to a post-democratic world won him the third place after-dinner speaking award. The win is made sweeter due to the fact that he was competing against a number of speakers who were slated to compete at the now-cancelled World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championship, which was to have been held in Shanghai in April.

Both he and Graham had high scores in all events, including interpretive reading, persuasive speech, and impromptu speaking. Barlow has at least two more online debate events scheduled for May.

Barlow sophomores Graham Litz and Ben Fligelman flanked by coach Randall Smith in a photo taken March 1 at the Hopkins School:

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