Former debate champion John McKay has announced that he is creating Voices: Foundation for the Promotion of High School Debate. So far, there isn't anything more to it than the announcement, but he hopes to run a charity tournament/round robin and camp to raise money for aiding debaters with fewer economic resources in competing on the national circuit.
John says that debate is "the most valuable activity a high school student can partake in," and I couldn't agree more. For those of you who appreciate the analysis and commentary I give on this site, it was only possible because of the practice, training, and experience I had while competing in tournaments around the country. Debate teaches young men and women how to speak clearly, persuasively, and concisely, it shows them how to construct an argument, and it forces them to think critically about the most important issues that face our nation and our world. Most importantly, it exposes them to the immense variety of views that exist in this country, and thus creates a class of citizens who are aware that political life extends beyond their own particular partisan affiliation. These assets should be spread far and wide, to any student who wants them.
Like John, I was fortunate enough to be blessed with the means to attend these tournaments. However, many of my closest friends were not, and they had to work, fundraise, and scrape for every dollar to travel. Many of these people also happened to be some of the most talented debaters in the country, but many of them could not have succeeded without the support of a community willing to help finance their competition. Who knows how many more voices have been excluded from the debate world because they couldn't muster the funds to compete? Economics should not pose a obstacle to excellence, and any program which seeks to lower the barriers of entering debate has my fullfledged support.
I'll post more on this as more information comes out. However, I highly urge anyone who recognizes the importance of educating young people to be active and engaged citizens to aid and assist your local debate programs in whatever means possible.