August 20, 2010

Master Debaters

My friend Mike Horowitz -- author of this great new bookir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=069114396X -- has a really funny, well, debate up on Slate with Mark Oppenheimer on high school and college debating. Some of you younger readers may be under the impression that the same jocks who were cool at your high school are the ones who go on to rule the roost here in Washington, but the reality is that within the policy community, a lot of the most impressive people are veterans of the other NFL -- the National Forensic League. As a guy who played football in high school and college (even though I'm not the greatest athlete and probably would have been a lot better at debate), I am highlighting Mike and Mark's debate in part because I spent Tuesday afternoon being impressed with the way Colin Kahl effectively deployed facts and figures in his presentation on Iraq at our big CNAS event. Where did Colin learn how to do that? Well, what did Colin do with all his spare time in high school and college? Yup. So don't despair, nerds: you will someday inherit the earth. (Or at least the 202 area code.)

[Blog alumna Charlie Simpson? Yes, also a debater.]

Update: Oh, snap! And Nagl too! I never knew this, but he's now in one of the common areas talking up his skilz in something called IE.

Update II: This has started a feverish Friday afternoon conversation among the staff at CNAS. The office is roughly divided between those who did debate/mock trial(!)/school newspaper/Model UN and those who played sports along a 1:2 margin. Some, like Nagl (Debate, Track) and Bob Kaplan (School Newspaper, Swimming), did both. I can sense a research project here: what if we sampled people in government at the deputy assistant secretary level and asked about their high school activities. What do you think the result would be?

Update III: Kath Hicks, too, I am now told.

Update IV: Slate's Fred Kaplan reports he went to the NFL nationals in '72, and Dave Barno -- Ranger Dave freaking Barno! -- also confesses he was president of his high school debate team.