Performance Trust hosts public debates about U.S. economic future

From left: Performance Trust CEO Rich Berg, Seniors Marcel Roman and Hanna Nasser (Champions from Whitney Young), and Attucks Asset Management CEO Les Bond Jr.

Top debaters from 12 Chicago high schools competed in the 2011 Performance Trust Public Debates on the U.S. Economy on December 9th and 10th, 2011.

The tournament, co-sponsored by Performance Trust Capital Partners and Attucks Asset Management, received positive attention from the Chicago news media, with segments on three television news programs and articles in several local papers. Educators, parents, CPS administrators, sponsor volunteers, and members of the community at large attended.

There were 52 separate debates on two resolutions:

Resolved: That the United States is now on an irreversible course of long-term economic decline.

Resolved: That the United States Federal Government should invest substantial spending in a new stimulus program.

The twelve teams worked for nearly three months to prepare their cases and rebuttal arguments on both the affirmative and the negative of each resolution. The CDC organized and conducted four training workshops for debaters and coaches to orient them to the format, event structure, judging rubric, and (not least) economic issues relevant to the topics. Performance Trust volunteers were matched with each school and worked with debaters to help them understand the difficult economic concepts and theories, as well as current economic data.

Performance Trust Chief Human Capital Officer and CDC Board Member Robert Chrismer explained: “Performance Trust and Attucks Asset Management provided more than the financial support that made this event possible. Volunteers from both firms reported having a rewarding experience mentoring the debaters and serving as judges during the tournament. Our firm invests in the Chicago Debate Commission and this event because we want to be responsible corporate citizens and because we believe that education and reasoned argument based on evidence produces sound decision-making and good counsel. The CDC, along with its other corporate and foundation sponsors, shares that belief. We are proud to partner with them.”

The public debate format, designed by the CDC, is intended to broaden the appeal of academic debating while retaining its rigor. According to CDC Director of Programming Les Lynn, “In the Chicago Debate League, what we do is so educationally valuable because it is built on twin pillars: (a) the standard of refutation – obligating a student  to engage and think critically about another student’s views, and (b) the standard of evidence – requiring  a student to support his or her arguments with credible textual evidence. Our public debate format calls for jargon-free and stylistically appealing debates that retain these two crucial standards.”

A VIP panel of judges — including Performance Trust CEO Rich Berg, Attucks Management CIO Geri Sands Hansen, University of Chicago Professor of Public Policy and best-selling author Charlie Wheelan, Columbia College Vice President Alicia Berg, and CDC Board President Patrick Hughes – determined the winners. Whitney Young’s Hannah Nasser and Marcel Roman prevailed in the championship round, beating Jennie Wang and Pauline Esman of Northside College Prep. Bruce Weber from Jones College Prep won the top speaker award.

Hanna Nasser said about her experience, “I found the Performance Trust Public Debates to be unique and invaluable. They allowed me to express myself on one of the most profound issues of my time, the U.S. economy. Through participation in this event, I gained more insight into the merits of  economic policies I’d otherwise be opposed to and refined my understanding of what I already believed. The Performance Trust Debates also taught me the value of public communication and rhetorical skills. My involvement in this event gave me a new perspective on debating.”