Brandeis team takes debate to Waltham

Brandeis Academic Debate And Speech Society held event at Waltham community center

Photo/Jarret Bencks

Waltham Mayor Jeannette A. McCarthy and Brandeis debaters Sara Margulies '15 and Brad Burns '15

Four members of the Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society tackled one of the toughest questions Massachusetts voters will face, and they did so in front of an audience who will cast ballots Nov. 4.

"It's the perfect venue to do this," said David Altman '15, one of the debaters. "We could have a debate on campus, but this is a great way for us to reach out and engage with local, registered voters."

With Waltham voters seated in front of them in the auditorium at the Waltham Community and Cultural Center on Moody Street, Sara Margulies '15, Amelia Berg '17, Brad Burns '15 and Altman went back and forth on Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot: Whether to repeal casino gambling in Massachusetts. The debate society coordinated the event with the Waltham League of Women Voters and the Brandeis Student Union Executive Board. It was moderated by Jeannette McCarthy, the mayor of Waltham.

The teams for each side of the debate were randomly selected. That made for a challenging evening for Altman, a Newton resident who recently cast his absentee ballot and voted in favor of repealing casino gambling.

"Sometimes we have to make claims we don't really stand behind in the spirit of discourse," he said.

The two teams  Burns and Margulies argued in favor of repeal, Berg and Altman opposed  made opening statements, then took questions posed by McCarthy, followed by a period of questions from the audience.

"It's really cool, not only do the voters in Waltham benefit, we benefit from talking to the community around us and going beyond that Brandeis bubble," Margulies said.

It was unusual for the debaters to take questions from an audience of curious voters. Margulies said that helped her think about the issue and her approach to debating in different ways.

"It's neat to have a crowd that might be impacted by what we say," said. "In a lot of debates, the questions we get can be pretty esoteric. The audience tonight really got me thinking about new ideas."

The debate team participates in events around the world, and hosts two debates annually. One was held on Oct. 17 and 18, and another is scheduled for Dec. 6 and 7 on the Brandeis campus. More information about the team and its schedule can be found on its website.

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