Lucas Hertzel, a sophomore at Bethel Park High School who competes on the forensic team, recently took second place in the PHSSL (Pennsylvania High School Speech League) state competition in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate event held virtually in March.
Lincoln-Douglas debate (more commonly referred to as LD) is a competitive speaking activity that involves two debaters arguing for and against a resolution that is selected by the NFL (National Forensics League) and voted on by coaches. The format is meant to honor the famous debate series between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in the run-up to the 1858 Illinois Senate Race.
Although the exact format of the debates was slightly different than the Lincoln-Douglas of today (back then the first speaker spoke for 60 minutes, the second had a 90-minute rebuttal, and then the first speaker had a 30-minute rebuttal/time for closing arguments) the adversarial nature of the debates was similar.
Today, somewhat like the old debates, LD focuses on the conflicting values of social and philosophical issues, for example, by examining questions of morality, justice, democracy, etc. Typically, LD debates concern themselves with deciding whether or not certain actions, or states of affairs, are good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral.
Hertzel’s topic was to resolve whether, in a democracy, a free press ought to prioritize objectivity over advocacy?
Ms. Christine Robb, who is the team’s coach, is understandably proud of her young pupil. “Lucas is a very bright young man and it’s a joy watching him prepare for the event and then to compete with such poise and command,” she said.
Hertzel, who was competing at the state level for the first time, is very grateful for the experience. “I am definitely proud of the accomplishment but I obviously would have rather come in first place than second place,” he said. “Still, it was such a good learning experience and so much fun to be a part of; I am excited to build on it,” he said.