No Spring Skips Its Turn (Part 1)

Philodemicians and soon-to-be-Philodemicians alike, welcome back to a new semester at Georgetown! Looking ahead, I did find myself a bit overwhelmed by the unfamiliar spring initiatives: Jessica Caroe Debate, Dean Gordon Debate and Merrick Debate. So in keeping with the tradition my excellent predecessor Ms. Cuppari established, I will dedicate to you a traditions-abound blog post at the start of this semester as well – to introduce what’s special about our spring semester.

Reading through Ms. Cuppari’s exhaustive Philodemic 101 only this winter break, I realized what a huge mistake I made by ignoring Philodemic’s informative Facebook posts in my freshman angst. At least I would not have gone to our Bucket Debate in jeans and a Welcome-Back-Jack T-shirt largely uninformed about an ALS challenge that I was bitterly not invited to. So fellow freshmen, here’s to you some favorite debating memories and messages from our members!

Flipping the Power Structure? — Jessica Caroe Debate

When Mr. Wang first told me his story winning the Jessica Caroe Award for Progress in Eloquence (Caroe Award), a stream of questions rushed through my mind: “Who is Jessica Caroe? What is the award for? And how to win it?” Because honestly, there has not been much written about this recent tradition dating from 2013 … until now.

  • An Award for Improvement: It all started with the 2006 graduating class, who endowed the society with a medal in memory of their fellow Philodemician Jessica Caroe (COL ’06), who tragically passed away with her fiancé in a car accident in 2012. Since then, the annual Caroe award goes to the Philodemic member inducted since the last Caroe Debate who has demonstrated the greatest improvement in eloquence in extemporaneous floor speeches. Up until now, only two members — Mr. Wang and Mr. Cunningham — have happily received this honor.

According to our first awardee Mr. Wang, the Caroe Award validated his continued efforts in honing his speaking skills and boosted his confidence as a true Philodemician. “Having my named called at the end of the debate was truly inspiring,” he wrote. “Joining the Philodemic was a great personal challenge. I had felt out of my element each week or that I didn’t have anything to contribute. I really have to thank my mentor, Benjamin Snow (COL ’13), for working with me in the Fall of 2013 to the Spring of 2014 on my speaking abilities, for making me feel like I deserved to be a part of the Society, and telling me that my unique NHS/science/pre-med background was and is greatly appreciated. I was so excited and I couldn’t stop smiling that evening.”

For the society, the award also symbolizes its commitment to “Improving eloquence in the defense of liberty” and creating a caring community for new members. Mr. Wang observed that, “Our Society has begun taking on more and more members, investing in non-members and really working to improve the speaking quality of those present at the debates each week. Having an award that recognizes the gains made by an individual throughout their time in Philodemic really speaks to how our Society as a whole has changed for the better. We can better appreciate the inclusiveness that our Society works so hard for and acknowledge the work that an individual has put in to join and improve our Philodemic community.”

  • A Debate of No Seniority: Along with the Award comes the Caroe Debate with no speaking order based on seniority, giving the society’s new faces an unprecedented chance to get called on and speak. The debate is held after the last Merrick Season Debate and before the Dean Gordon Debate, around early-mid April in the Philodemic room. As the debate concludes, all active members vote to determine one Awardee.

Mr Wang commended the Caroe Debate’s liberating break from the seniority rule: “I think it’s especially useful to remove seniority during this debate to allow the most recently-inducted members, who generally do not get the chance to speak, the opportunity to demonstrate their improvement over the course of their Philodemic career. This rule greatly contributes to the fairness of the selection process.

The time for fresh Philodemicians to shine, the Caroe Debate conveys the same spirit as Mr. Wang’s message for freshmen and non-members: “Your efforts will never go unnoticed. With anything, you get out what you put in. With Philodemic, you can gain speaking skills, you can be a part of tradition, but more importantly, you can be a part of a new family at Georgetown.”

Let’s Get a Little Witty – Dean Gordon Debate

Daunted by the instruction to “be funny” at the Christmas Debate, I kept hearing this as an encouragement: “Don’t feel pressured to be witty. It’s not Dean Gordon.” So obviously, witty sets a higher bar than funny, a truth upheld by the annual Dean Gordon Debate from 2004. On this subject, let us hear from Ms. Cuppari, who was inducted on last year’s Dean Gordon Debate bravely accusing Disney of destroying America.

  • In Memory of a Clever Fellow: Though created in 2004 when the Assistant Dean of the Georgetown Law School Richard Gordon passed away, this debate recorded a history further back into the early 1990s when Dean Gordon helped re-constitute the Society and justly asked Georgetown’s then President Fr. O’Donovan to “give the Philodemic its room back.” Named after this Merrick Award winner known for his wit, the Dean Gordon Cup goes to the Philodemic member who leaves the floor both howling in laughter and deep in thought with the wittiest floor speech on the annual Dean Gordon Debate.

For Ms. Cuppari, this debate is distinguished by its embodiment of core Philodemic history and values. “The Dean Gordon debate is special because it honors Dean Gordon, who helped to restore the Society in the 1990s after it had been dissolved,” she wrote, “Without him, the Philodemic would not exist, and so the debate serves as a reminder of what we owe to others for our existence as well as the epitome of a great speech: substantial and simultaneously funny in a witty way.”

  • A Rap is Highly Appreciated: The last regular debate of the semester, the Dean Gordon Debate features the familiar setting of a Philodemic room and a Thursday night. Based on the twofold standard of fun and cleverness, all keynoters will vote that night to determine the Dean Gordon Cup winner.

Recalling her induction night, Ms. Cuppari remembered one speech in particular – a rap. She wrote, “My favorite memory from Dean Gordon was the rap speech that Ms. Laura Kurek gave as her keynote – it was fantastic and of course it made me even less confident for my remaining keynote. It didn’t help that I was trying to convince everyone that Disney was Destroying America…”

With a tradition of hilarious topics ranging from Dangerous Disney, Bro vs. Hipster to Vampire vs. Zombie, I look forward to another fantastic night of wit this upcoming semester. (To be continued with more on Merrick)

For the first time,


Xinlan Hu

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