Students participate in debate, win cash prizes
Senior Mary Campbell won first place and $500 in Linfield’s second Frederick Douglass Forum on Law, Rights and Justice on May 2. Senior Aaron Good won second place and $250.
Campbell and Good participated in the undergraduate persuasive speaking competition along with seniors Leanne McCallum, Xavier Reed, Nick Rhoten and freshman Caleb Snodgrass.
Students delivered a five- to seven-minute speech answering the question of whether the United States should implement a compulsory 18-month service in either the military or civilian service.
The theme of the speech was drawn from Linfield’s Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement theme of legacies of war, and the proposal of the forum derived from William Galston, a political theorist and political figure who focused on issues of citizenship and an advocate for universal service.
They were then judged by Patrick Cottrell, assistant professor of political science, David Sumner, associate professor of English and environmental studies, sophomore Megan Schwab and freshman Maggie Hawkins.
Schwab was the first place winner of the first Fredericks Douglass forum, and Hawkins was the second place winner.
McCallum spoke first, being the only student to argue for a compulsory universal service. She argued that civil service would also benefit society as a whole, as it would make citizens appreciate what it means to be an American.
“Universal service would create equality by helping bridge the massive socioeconomic gap that separates Americans today,” McCallum said.
McCallum argued that universal service would also make people care more about sending soldiers overseas.
“[The military] would no longer be predominately lower income or disadvantaged people making up the majority of the servicemen,” McCallum said. “The least privileged would no longer be forced to bear the burden of the political decisions of others. It would become a burden of society as a whole.”
Contradicting McCallum’s argument, the other five students argued that having compulsory service would not be American, and would also infringe upon citizens’ rights.
Campbell compared doing chores poorly at home to how 18-year-old citizens may respond when being forced to perform service that they otherwise would not engage in.
“Don’t [citizens] have an extra incentive to perform poorly merely as a form of resistance?” Campbell said.
Campbell went on to explain that only the most willing citizens should participate in such service because they would be more dedicated and hard working.
Also, having fewer citizens forced to participate in service would bring the costs down and more incentives could be created to influence citizens to join, such as creating grants that could be put toward a college education.
“Forcing our youth to serve will not revitalize citizenship,” Campbell said. “It will cause resentment and bitterness to the tune of billions of dollars.”
Samantha Sigler can be reached at