In April 2013, 76 of the top-ranked urban high school debaters from 19 cities across the nation gathered in Washington, DC for the sixth annual Urban Debate National Championship Tournament. Selected from 7,000 urban debaters nationwide, these talented and committed young people prepped for months for the two day tournament.
The final round came down to a 2-1 decision in favor of two Baltimore Urban Debate League members from Baltimore City College, Dikshant Malla and Sophie Bauerschmidt Sweeney. In August, Dikshant and Sophie joined other place winners for a White House visit.
The BUDL winners met with President Obama in the Oval Office for a photo session. One remarked, “The Oval Office is smaller than I thought it would be.” The President congratulated the winners and chatted about their debate topic, Transportation Infrastructure. Their winning affirmative case was Climate Resilient Infrastructure (with a focus on Hurricane Katrina).
The visit also included a tour of the Justice Department, a reception in their honor, and private meetings with public servants and Cabinet members. Highlights included visits with:
- Alan Bersin, Assistant Secretary, International Affairs & Chief Diplomatic Office
- Jack Lew, Secretary of Treasury
- Elena Kagan, Supreme Court Justice
- Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
- Don Verrilli, U.S. Solicitor General
Of the five staffers that Jack Lew, Secretary of Treasury, brought to the meeting, all were former debaters.
Elena Kagan mentioned to the group that since she’s been a Justice (at any one time), one of her three Clerks has been a former debater – not by design but by happenstance.
Assistant Secretary Alan Bersin engaged the group in a mock brain storm on Big Data for a class that he will be teaching at University of Michigan.
The White House visit was a milestone in the scholastic careers of our two BUDL students. It has been many years since NAUDL winners have had an opportunity to meet with a United States President or to be invited to the White House.
Prior to the national tournament, these two students won 2nd and 3rd place Speaker Awards, were undefeated in preliminary rounds, lost only two ballots out of 17 judges, all leading to their commanding victory at the national tournament.
Their history with BUDL has been a long one. Dikshant has been a BUDL debater for five years (grades 8-12). Sophie has been a BUDL debater for seven years (Grades 6-12). This fall Dikshant is a freshman at Johns Hopkins University on a Baltimore Scholars Program scholarship. Sophie is attending Georgetown University. Both plan to debate in college.