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Alexander Hamilton Society provides opportunity for debate on campus

| Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The University’s chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS) is hosting its first event on campus this week — a debate about the United States’ policy regarding North Korea, rather than a musical performance.

Sophomore president of AHS Marea Hurson said she started a Notre Dame chapter of the non-partisan national debate society this year in an attempt to encourage campus engagement with national and foreign policy.

“You get a lot more out of it, no matter what side you’re on, if you can hear both sides,” Hurson said. “Because then you realize why you believe what you do, or maybe you get a new perspective shown to you. So we’re excited to be able to bring debate to campus.”

Sophomore Annalie Nagel, co-vice president of AHS, said the debate format of the group’s events allows people to directly respond to each other in the moment.

“It’s a very unique setting, as opposed to all the lectures that are going on this week, because you get two ideas, they’re presented in a — not contentious, but an adversary format, and they have to directly disagree with each other,” she said. “That fray and conflict adds a lot of interest, and hopefully we’ll get a lot of questions from both sides of the aisle.”

The experience of planning debates and hearing two experts speak on national policy provides a valuable chance for people to engage in current events on campus, Hurson said.

“It’s a great avenue for people who are interested in going into a career in politics, or in Washington or any kind of national security — any of those things,” she said. “What’s cool is we have the freedom to decide what topic we want to do, what expert we want to bring in and what kind of topic we want them to debate. And so it’s a great way to get the whole campus community engaged in current events.”

Although the group’s upcoming inaugural debate — “North Korea and Nuclear Deterrence, is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson right in saying ‘The policy of strategic patience has ended?’” — is particularly timely, sophomore co-vice president of AHS Jane Bachkora said the group happened to be fortunate that the debaters’ expertise led them in the same direction as the current political climate.

“We got really lucky, because when we decided to do North Korea, a lot of what’s currently happened hadn’t happened yet,” she said. “So we got lucky in that sense.”

Director of the Peace Accords Matrix (PAM) at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and special advisor for policy studies at the Keough School of Global Affairs David Cortright will debate AHS expert and Georgetown professor Matthew Kroenig on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium. Hurson said the group hopes this debate will pave the way for more debates, as well as regular meetings to discuss current events.

“The goal would be to have two debates per semester,” she said. “For a bit of it, it kind of has a transient membership, because you need a core of about 10 or 12 committed people to help plan all the events and everything, but the idea is to get the whole campus just to come. The goal is always to have about 70-plus [people in] attendance at a debate.”

Bachkora said getting involved with AHS and attending any debates the group hosts allows people to broaden their worldviews and strengthen their beliefs.

“You can’t limit yourself to one point of view,” she said. “You can’t only watch FOX News, you can’t only read The New York Times. I believe the best way to educate yourself, and the best way to be informed and the best way to be an ideal citizen is to take in as many points of view as you can, and then be able to decide for yourself. … And I think this society does just that.”

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About Courtney Becker

Courtney is a junior from New York City majoring in film, television and theater with a minor in journalism, and currently serving as News Editor. She is a proud resident of Pasquerilla West Hall and a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

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