January 29, 2014 – The Inaugural McCourt School Debate hosted by the Georgetown Public Policy Student Association (GPPSA) and the Forum for International Development focused on the United States foreign aid budget. Moderated by Professor of Economics Billy Jack, the debate featured Alex Caple (MPP ’14) and Harrison Lopes (MPP ’14) who argued in favor of cuts to foreign aid and Anamaria Camacho (MPP ’15) and Jillian Edmonds (MPP/JD ’16) who argued against reducing foreign aid funding.

The Oxford-style debate not only fueled lively discussion between the debate teams, but it also engaged audience members who posed questions to the teams.

“We thought it was time to do something different where students engage and discuss issues with each other…we wanted to choose a topic that would be of interest to both students interested in domestic policy and international development,” said Simrin Makhija, GPPSA Chair of the Diversity Committee and a leading member of the Forum for International Development.

Organizers strived to celebrate the diversity of the school and its students. GPPSA Diversity Representative Stephanie Keller (MPP ’15) said, “It was all about bringing people together—the entire McCourt community—to celebrate diversity of thought and Socratic dialogue.

After many probing questions from the audience and persuasive, dynamic arguments from both teams, Alex Caple and Harrison Lopes were announced as winners. In addition to receiving a $75 Amazon gift card, the winners will have their names engraved on the McCourt School Policy Debate winner’s plaque, which will be displayed at the student lounge.

“I wanted a chance to practice my public speaking skills, and this offered a ripe opportunity,” said Alex Caple. “In my opinion we tend to think of foreign aid either as a moral imperative or a tool for diplomacy. Breaking those surface level ideas really only evolves through a rigorous discussion of the issue.”

“The debates were competitive learning at its best. I learned that knowing your audience is an important part of the debate. Most of the audience members were Master of International Development Policy students so they really knew their stuff and came with some very impressive questions. They kept us honest and on our toes,” said Harrison Lopes.

GPPSA and the Forum for International Development expressed their enthusiasm in keeping the McCourt Policy Debate a time-honored tradition and plan to host the next debate in January 2015.

First year MPP student and debater Anamaria Camacho said, “As policy students we should be able to defend our positions and this event was a great way to learn how to do it and to make mistakes while trying. I think it is also a good experience for the people in the public because you get to challenge opposing points of view and question the different policy options that are presented and to identify data that is misleading.”