An Excursion to Georgia — At the Demosthenian Hall

After a little refreshments upon our arrival at the Demosthenian Hall, the All Night Meeting promptly began with Secretary Ms. Austin’s dramatic rendition of the Vagina Monologue and a speedy roll call. Three alumni respectively keynoted on the topics of news media, death penalty and moral imperatives, leading up to the extemporaneous Alumni Debates: Be it Resolved – That God is, Be it Resolved – The music of the 1980’s is the best and Be it Resolved – The solution to police brutality is to give every black male an assault rifle. Several Philodemicians spoke wonderfully on the Problem of God, proving themselves worthy students of Georgetown’s religious core.

As the speakers started to drift off past midnight, the Hall was suddenly awakened by a boisterous Impeachment of the President that exposed such scandals as drug dealing and fathering an illegitimate son. This disturbing trial remained my last memory of the evening before I succumbed to sleep. But here, I would yield my post to fellow Society members who are to share from their perspectives some lasting memories from the evening:

  • Mr. Kendrick: I’d have to say [the most memorable experience] was when they did the mock impeachment of the president. It was a very bizarre experience, like a parody of a Soviet show trial.
  • Mr. Harden: Both the Demosthenians and the Philodemicians all had a lot of energy and excitement for the All Night Meeting. There was always something going, whether upstairs with the rousing debates or downstairs where everyone was socializing. The mood was upbeat, the people were friendly, and we all had an amazing time. Because of that, I would say that the best word to describe the ANM was energetic.
  • President Whelan: Seeing the impeachment of the president made me very thankful that no such similar scandalous affair has occurred in Philodemic Society. I definitely enjoyed the impromptu debate that they had. We spent a lot of time debating about resolutions, but really interesting debates can also come from proposing resolutions on the spot and speaking extemporaneously. I also really enjoyed the lecture about the death penalty and the lawyer that fought the death penalty. He summed up very in a vivid way what I had felt for a long time. His keynote crystalized for me why I have the view that I do.
  • Ms. Haag: The meeting itself was an interesting look at another society. The Demosthinians have their own unique style of debate that involves a lot of shouting and hand symbols, and they themselves are a group of kind, funny, and eloquent people. One of my favorite things was seeing how many alumni were there – being a Demosthinian was clearly a big point of pride and something that stays with you for a long time.

The all-night meeting was very, very long. I’m pretty sure I slept on the floor for about two hours and another four in the car (poor Mike had to drive in silence). But it was worth it to experience debating in a new way, to meet some really quality human beings, and to get closer to some of my fellow Philodemicians. I’d get up at 4 on a Saturday to do it again in a heartbeat.

  • Mr. Fletcher: Because of a highly suspicious fuel tank, our van arrived in Georgia with minutes to spare before the start of the meeting. We donned our suits and dresses in the bathroom of the school’s library, before marching across the law to Demosthenian hall. Whereas Philodemic has but a room, Demosthenian has an entire house of equal splendor and grandeur. The two story building dates back to the university’s early years and each floor has its own sets of rules and traditions. Above is the debating room; below are the library, office of the president and social space.

The evening began, as all evening should, with good food and pleasant company. The formal events of the evening began with a call from the Demosthenian sergeant arms, who alerted the assembled societies and guests by bellowing at the top of his lungs. After hearing from three peerless speakers invited specially for the occasion, the debate commenced. The debate revolved around Alumni and Guests and employed the Demosthenian’s singular format.

In essence, after a resolution is proposed, speakers rise as per the president’s pleasure and speak for a maximum of five minutes on the topic of the resolution. Continuity is not emphasized in Demosthinian hall to the same extent that it is in the Philodemic room and every speaker has much leeway in deciding to either condemn or endorse the resolution. Speaking time is longer at five minutes and other members are permitted to interrupt a speaker and pose questions. Throughout the night, speeches that otherwise would have persisted as bloviated pontifications were punctured by sharp interrogation; indeed, while long winded Philodemicians may subject a helpless audience to extended bouts of oratory, speakers in Demosthinian hall are very much at the rest of the floor’s mercy.

The first resolution proposed skirted controversy: “God Is” and only two speeches had elapsed before my hand was in the air. My speech contained little in the way of new insight though I acquitted myself by introducing the Georgetown delegation and thanking the Demosthinians for their hospitality. I was not the only Philodemician to rise that evening. (To be continued)


Xinlan Hu

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