National Press Club

Debate Consortium Encourages Federal Funding

April 3, 2009 | By Mike Smith

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Jeff Porro and John Davis, co-founders of the Debate Consortium to encourage and fund debate teams from historically black colleges and universities, called on Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the White House to provide federal money to restore thedebate tradition of these schools.

They spoke at a March 27 Newsmaker panel.

Porro is a speech writer and story writer for "The Great Debaters," the Denzel Washington film that won critical acclaim and a Screenwriters' Guild Award for Porro. The story chronicles Wiley College in the Jim Crow south and young James Farmer who took on Ivy League opponents and won. Porro raised the question of whether a "great debaters" scenario is possible today -- with funding cuts for forensics. The speech writer is also motivated because "most of my clients today are white and male; we need to change that" equation.

Davis, a two season debate coach at Howard University, challenged today's debaters: "Within five years, we need to be at the NDT," National Debate Tournament.

"Debate needs to be a university wide program," said Davis. "Let's get back in the game, not just serve as the 'scrimmage' teams" for NDT competitors. Davis also runs Debate Solutions in Baltimore, a debate camp and speaker prep program.