The first debate the Philodemic Society ever held decided the resolution of “Napoleon Bonaparte or General Washington: Which was the better man?” Appropriately for the Philodemic, George Washington won (he’s our favorite president by far). Notable debates, however, have always been a mark of the Philodemic; one of the most remarkable debates we have held was “Should the South Now Secede from the Union?” during the years leading up to the Civil War. The resolution was affirmed, and, with heated words, a fight broke out on the floor. Now you know why we have a Sergeant-at-Arms…
Not all debates carry such gravity though. In fact, the debate I was inducted on last year was Dean Gordon Debate. The Dean Gordon Debate is traditionally the last weekly debate of the spring semester and is held in honor of the former Merrick Medalist, President of the Philodemic, and Assistant Dean of the Georgetown Law School. After the Philodemic disbanded in 1977, Dean Gordon helped to re-establish the Society in 1988 in part through his close friendship with former President Leo J. O’Donovan. After he died in 2004, the Society instituted the debate in his honor. In contrast with most of the Society’s debates, Dean Gordon is super lighthearted and witty. In fact, the Dean Gordon Cup is awarded at the end of the night to the speaker who kept the room rolling with laughter with sharp jokes. Last year, the Dean Gordon Debate was “Resolved: Disney is destroying America.” Other debates have included: “The bro, and not the hipster, represents the greatest threat to Western civilization” and “The Vampire, and not the Zombie, is the most useful member of the Undead Republic.”
There are also other special debates held throughout the year in addition to the Dean Gordon Debate. In 2012, the Philodemic Society began hosting the Annual East Coast Conference of Collegiate Literary Debate Societies and the accompanying Kai Yai Yai Ball. During this debate, Philodemicians gather with members of the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania, the Demosthenian Literary Society of the University of Georgia, and had gathered with the now defunct Enosinian Society of George Washington University.
Also in the fall, the Annual Hamilton Debate—the Philodemic’s alumni debate—is held to welcome back alumni of the Society on Homecoming weekend. The Hamilton Medal is awarded to the speaker (a current member) who best represents the Eloquence in the Defense of Liberty. At the end of the semester, we also have a Christmas debate (usually also on the sillier side)! Last year’s topic was “Resolved: Santa is red” (let’s just say that debate degenerated fantastically).
The most important debate of the year is by far the Merrick debate though, and I will address that tomorrow!