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SDI is entering its third year. It is the teaching arm of a think tank of statecraft and leadership that is coming up on its 20th anniversary. The latter, going by the name, Society of Statesmen, has from the onset been dedicated to upholding the national interest. There has been this relentless accumulation of knowledge and there has been this resolution dating back to early 2014 that the best circle to share the knowledge with is the debate community broadly defined, involving adults and youth alike.
High Schools in Philadelphia and Wilmington where the first SDI camps took place.
SDI has been doing a lot beneath the surface to get ready for 2017. Its first public steps took place in the summers of 2015 and 2016. In 2015, we conducted a high-school debate camp in Wilmington, Delaware, for suburbanites, and a similar camp in nearby Philadelphia for inner city youth. The programs were rigorous but the students were up to it and enjoyed it. That debate camps could be taken to a higher level and could emulate the very best leadership academies of old, was proven. We had our first success!
What did the 2015 camps cover? Vital persuasion skills were imparted in lectures and practice in approximately 40% of the total camp experience. Stimulating policy briefs that anticipated debates made time fly in about 15% of the camp. And in about half the allotted time, the students soared in short debates and full-scale contests. The debate resolutions spanned 4000 years of history; they touched upon Christ and his critics, culture of old and culture today, fateful moments in our national history, famous speeches of Lincoln, Churchill, John Kerry and George W Bush, domestic policy and foreign policy, and, in the context of public problems, explored a wider range of solutions than typically discussed elsewhere. The capstone was a simulation of Congress. The students tackled one of the toughest public policy problems that the nation faces right now.
In 2016, SDI lengthened its debate camps. We also held our first residential camp. Furthermore, we held camp not only locally but also in Washington, DC. More success to report!
From SDI’s very onset, we have dreamed big dreams.
Ultimately, the high marks of civilization—moments of sacrifice, moments of “reasoning together” after the fashion of Isaiah–have been our beckoning star. Consider, for instance, the heroism that revived the West in the aftermath of the fall of Rome or, closer to home, the fervent town meetings of colonial America or lyceums of our new nation, such as the Illinois lyceum that a young Lincoln famously addressed. Who among us is not moved to emulation? Thus the rising and expanding Statesman Debate!