Lafayette Debates 2017 - Should democracies prioritize interculturalism

April 20, 2017 | By HIGHER EDUCATION NY

Since 2013, the Embassy of France in the U.S. has partnered with The George Washington University to organize the Lafayette Debates, an international debate series which aim to promote dialogue and relations between the United States and France by engaging future leaders on timely topics of mutual interest.

The tradition dates back to 1824, when General Marquis de Lafayette made his "hero’s tour" of the United States to celebrate the role France played in the American Revolutionary War. During his tour, General Lafayette stopped at the Columbian College (now The George Washington University), where he was welcomed by the debate and literary society.

The 2016-17 Lafayette Debates began with the Lafayette Debates opening round at the University of Toronto, continued with the Lafayette Debates Earlybird Contest at the US Universities Eastern Debating Championship, and concluded on April 8th and April 9th at the Lafayette Debates North American Championship. Between these three events, over 450 U.S., Canadian and French university students representing over 60 different colleges and universities participated in the program.

The 2017 Lafayette Debates challenged students to scrutinize the question of how ought the United States and France respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by increasing cultural diversity.

As in years past, teams competed for both the General Lafayette Trophy and the Championship Trophy. The General Lafayette competition was open to both French and U.S. military academies. This year, the top two schools that debated for this trophy were the U.S. Military Academy, and the Ecole de Guerre, based in Paris. This year, the U.S. Military Academy took home the trophy. The championship round was a hard fought contest between Morehouse College and Vanderbilt University. After an exceedingly close debate, the judges voted 3-2 in Morehouse’s favor.

Each year as prizes for team and individual success, seven debaters win study tours to Paris to continue their exploration of the Lafayette Debates topic firsthand in meetings with French thought leaders. This year, the tour was won by the debaters from Morehouse, Vanderbilt, George Washington, and the University of Pennsylvania. During their tour, they will meet with French diplomats, politicians and academics, and be inducted into the Young Ambassadors Alumni Network to promote ongoing transatlantic dialogue and networking between France and the U.S.

If you would like to learn more about the debates, please visit the tournament website: