The Hamilton High School debate team in recent months argued in favor and against unilateral military force to minimize nuclear weapons proliferation, and they did so very well.
So well, in fact, the five-member team will head to New York City this week to compete as one of the final eight teams in the International Public Policy Forum debate competition that started with 266 teams.
Dustin Guo, Jessica Li, Gokul Ramadoss, Zoheb Sarwar and Andy Yuwen will compete for the $10,000 grand prize another Hamilton team came up just short of a year ago.
The Hamilton team will be competing against teams from New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Slovakia, Singapore and Taiwan. The field started with teams from 37 states and 28 countries.
“We didn’t expect to get this far so it is really fulfilling,” the senior Ramadoss said. “Two of the rounds were really close.”
Founded in 2001 by the law firm of Bickel & Brewer, the International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) is the only contest that gives high school students around the globe the opportunity to engage in written and oral debates on issues of public policy. Jointly administered by the Bickel & Brewer Foundation and New York University, the program is available to all public and private high schools for free.
This year’s competition began in October, as each school submitted a qualifying-round essay on the IPPF topic: The use of military force is justified as a last resort to minimize nuclear proliferation. The IPPF essay review committee evaluated each essay and the top 64 teams earned cash awards and advanced to a single-elimination, written debate competition.
In the round of 64, schools volleyed papers back and forth via email. Judges reviewed the essays and select the advancing teams. The process whittled teams down to 32, 16 and then eight.
The “Elite 8” teams were announced last month, and each received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to compete during IPPF finals weekend.
Hamilton is leaving Chandler on Thursday and competing Saturday.
During the finals, teams supplement their written advocacy with oral argumentation. Judges for the oral rounds have included New York University President John Sexton, Bickel & Brewer Partner William A. Brewer III, Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark, National Forensic League Executive Director Scott Wunn, and New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson.
Ultimately, the IPPF champion wins a $10,000 grand prize and the Bickel & Brewer Cup.
“To have a completely new team represent Hamilton in New York City for a second year in a row speaks to the quality of our students, their work ethic, and their intellectual interests,” said Sarah Burgess, who has overseen the Hamilton debate team for six years. “To see their intellectual growth is fun, but also to see them move the bracket.”
The IPPF pays for two students and two chaperones to make the trip; Hamilton is paying for the other three students.
Hamilton will argue against the topic in the next round, when it faces East Mountain High School from Sandia Park, N.M.
“The word count in the oral debate is substantially lower than in the essays,” Sarwar, a senior, said. “We have to pick and choose our best arguments and be concise. But the head-to-head debate format is more something we’re used to.”
If Hamilton advances to the final four it will face either a team from Singapore or Lindon, Utah.
“It’s a pretty interesting topic and we’ve learned a lot from it,” Sarwar said. “But it’s also kind of scary. The U.S. is on the brink of nuclear war with a couple countries.”
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