At the Cornell Forensics Society inaugural debate in its new ILR home, eight students from three continents argued the question: "Has Obama Failed the International Community?"
Teams from Rhodes University in South Africa and the University of Ljubjana in Slovenia lobbied for "yes." Teams from Cornell and Trinity College Dublin argued "no."
The South African and Slovenian teams rattled off one argument after another, citing what they saw as failure of President Barack Obama to establish effective global energy use and peace in the Middle East.
He devoted his attention to domestic health care at the expense of international policy issues, naysayers said at the podium in 305 Ives Hall last week.
About 80 students from across campus listened politely to both sides, moderated by Alex Just, a world champion debater from Scotland. This winter, the forensics program moved to ILR from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Some competitors used gesticulation, humor or a sprinkle of salty language. Others maintained more reserved styles.
Alex Bores '13, arguing on behalf of the Cornell team, said that Obama has not failed the international community. Rather, he said, "Obama has been a universal success."
Isaac Todd '11 said Obama's nuanced politics have served the international community well and that, naturally, his top priority had been to serve those who voted him into office.
Irish debater Marguerite Carter, the glib and final speaker of the event, said Obama’s open engagement with the world and his "cautious, savvy" approach to Iran help demonstrate he has not failed the international community.
Spectators voted, by a show of hands, that the pro-Obama Trinity College and Cornell teams had provided the most convincing material in the debate.
The Cornell Forensics Society, open to all Cornell students, meets at 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays in 217 Ives Hall.
Director of Forensics Sam Nelson, an ILR senior lecturer, said Cornell's squad of 100 debaters is the largest intercollegiate forensics program in the nation.
Members of the Cornell team traveled to Turkey in January for a competition and debate in Denver this weekend at the national debate championship.