The privatedebate team is on a winning streak. Team members Jonathan Summers and Trent Mora won the Sierra Sustainability Summit, held April 25-29 in Yosemite National Park. Their proposal to establish a camping gear library at national parks and integrating ecological classes into K-12 education to promote environmental conservation and equitable access helped them defeat teams from Morehouse College, the University of Vermont, The George Washington University (GWU), the University of Rochester, the University of San Francisco, and California Polytechnic State University. Several judges work in the field and said they would start to implement the Gallaudet plan immediately.

Just one week earlier, Gallaudet debaters Aubrie Bauer and Lorelei Becktel secured the team鈥檚 first-ever tournament championship on April 20. They represented Gallaudet in the second round of the Transatlantic Dialogues, an intercollegiate debate series founded by 脡cole de Guerre and GWU. Twelve teams participated in the event, which was hosted by GWU. They focused on this question: 鈥淗ow, if at all, should Western liberal democracies prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion to enhance unit cohesion and military readiness?鈥

Two people wearing all black with glasses, are standing on front of a classroom signing their points in a debate.
Lorelei Becktel (left) and Aubrie Bauer (right) won second round of the Transatlantic Dialogues on April 20. At top, they are pictured with their mentor,聽Chef de bataillon Thibault Idre of 脡cole de Guerre.

Bauer and Becktel鈥檚 approach to the topic won praise from judges, who appreciated their passionate delivery, clear and consistent answers, and ability to integrate feedback instantly. According to their military mentor, Chef de bataillon Thibault Idre of 脡cole de Guerre, what helped them clinch victory over GWU鈥檚 team in the final round were their 鈥減recise, relevant, and challenging鈥 questions. 鈥淵ou鈥檝e been able to shape the battlefield,鈥 Idre noted.

They could sense their success as the debate unfolded. 鈥淎 French military officer who was judging us smiled broadly when I used the line, 鈥業t is better to stick to the devil we know, not the devil we do not know.鈥 This was the moment I realized that our arguments were sinking in,鈥 Bauer says.

Being announced as winners was a special moment. 鈥淚t was a little surprising, but undeniably wonderful,鈥 says Becktel, who appreciated how supportive the atmosphere was. 鈥淚t was heartwarming to witness everyone, including the French military officers, cheering for our victory with their hands in the air like what Deaf people usually do,鈥 Bauer adds. 鈥淚 felt a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that our victory was the result of our persistent efforts. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to demonstrate our abilities.鈥

In the individual rankings of competitors, Bauer and Becktel won fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Man with short curly brown hair in a purple T-shirt, green work shirt, and black pants stands in front of an incredible mountain scene
Jonathan Summers helped Gallaudet win the Sierra Sustainability Summit in Yosemite National Park.

These wins reflect months of hard work and preparation, says Dr. Brendan Stern, 鈥06, Executive Director of Gallaudet鈥檚 Center for Democracy in Deaf America. 鈥淭he two straight tournament championships show the world that our students can compete intellectually anywhere as long as they鈥檙e given the opportunity,鈥 adds Stern, who also serves as team coach.

It is a busy time for the debate team, which also recently had a debate with the of Georgetown University on whether deafness should be cured. The Gallaudet students who represented the team, Mora and Joe Cherichello, shared some of the key arguments during the #WeAreGallaudet conversation, 鈥淕ene Editing: Are we an endangered species?鈥 on April 24.

Being able to tackle difficult, controversial topics like this appeals to Cherichello, who took the affirmative position. 鈥淚 just want everyone to have access to language, and I recognize that the path to get language as a deaf person is more difficult,鈥 he says. Mora countered that this reality is the result of oppressive systems that prohibited sign language, and that deaf people have much more to offer the world.

The team鈥檚 next stop is the third and final tournament in the 2024 Transatlantic Dialogues series. Competitors will gather on June 24 at Ecole de Guerre in Paris, France to address this issue: 鈥淲hat are the most effective approaches for militaries in Western liberal democracies (e.g., the United States and France) to recruit individuals to counter emerging forms of warfare?鈥

Becktel says their strategy will be to continue to emphasize collaboration. 鈥淲e had multiple judges comment that we were very in sync, very much on the same page, and consistent each round,鈥 she says. 鈥淚 very much hope that kind of teamwork 鈥 and of course, well-written policy 鈥 is a staple not just for the two of us in Paris this summer, but for all of our debaters as they compete in the future.鈥

A group stands together inside an old, beautiful library.
The Gallaudet debate team, including Trent Mora (bottom right), recently held a debate with the Philodemic Society of Georgetown University on whether deafness should be cured.

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