I’ve spent a lot of time on those four items the last few days, and
actually enjoyed it immensely. Sort of a back to the roots excursion,
since Debate is what got me into the profession where I spent most of my
adult life. Those 3 R’s in the last 3 days have mostly been used in
following up on my recent post about the contentious meme of Bill Gates
and Tedros running the world through WHO, on which I now consider myself
a minor expert, having taken notes on at least a dozen related articles
(more on that later in a yet to be written post). It ended up being a
felicitous diversion, given the prominence of WHO in the recent news, a
topic which I could now debate with at least some understanding.
My start in Debate was in high school, where I did well enough that I continued on to the UNL Debate Team, which ended up paving my way to the teaching position at LSE where I stayed for 30 years, until I retired. My first decade there I also coached Debate, after having tried that briefly at a couple of other high schools. A large number of my Facebook friends come, not surprisingly, from Debate related affairs, even from decades ago, but not from as far back as high school or my first debate partner at UNL in 1971. We were an extremely odd couple. He was short haired, burnished, and Chairman of the Nebraska Young Republicans, while I was a raggedy hippy with short-lived connections to Socialist Party locals. Because of Debate we spent tons of time together, in practice rounds, research sessions, long road trips to out of state tournaments, etc.
In spite of our political differences, we got along quite well together, became good friends, and did respectably on the collegiate debate circuit (back in the days when eloquence was still admired). Perhaps we were even more successful because of our political differences, since Debate demands arguing on both sides of a topic. We also just happened to live next door to each other in fraternities across from the Student Union (Beta Theta Pi and Theta Xi), which increased the frequency of times we saw each other. I suspect we might have gone on to become an outstanding Policy team, had I not taken a psychedelic trip right out of college in the middle of my Sophomore year, leaving my partner in the lurch, not knowing when he went home for semester break that on his return his partner would have utterly disappeared, my whereabouts unbeknown even to my parents. I’m sure he went on to do quite well in both politics and Debate without me, but I totally of lost track of him.
In fact, so complete was my evacuation that I’m not sure I ever talked to him again, and until a few days ago I had totally forgotten his name, though I was pretty sure we had the same first name. There were still numerous debate partners to come when I returned to UNL half a decade later, but in more recent years I had a recurrent urge to find out what had become of my first and most partisan partner, or at least to remember his name. Perhaps motivated by some subliminal intimation from the Gates/Tedros meme, or maybe from just having too much pandemic downtime, I decided to apply my recently resurgent research skills. With no name to search with, 40+ intervening years, and the connected places pandemically closed, it promised to be a problematic challenge. The Beta Theta Pi and Young Republican angles, approached through various email and Google tactics, were dead ends, as was social media.
I was starting to fear the same for UNL when I got an email reply from Communication Studies Dept. Chair Dawn Braithwaite, who put me in touch with Dr. Aaron Duncan, the current director of Speech & Debate, whom she thought could help me. They were both very friendly and helpful, and seemed surprisingly glad to hear from me. I’m mostly including these details for those who may know Dawn and Aaron, but also because I learned from them that there will be a dinner for the 150th Anniversary of Debate at UNL in April of 2021. (This also triggered a vague memory of having attended a centenary anniversary dinner when I first entered the program, probably with the debate partner whose name I’d been trying to recall.) 150 years is a long time, and it turns out that I entered the program almost exactly 2/3 of the way (a century) into its history, and my association with it has now continued through the other third. Hopefully the program has at least another century to come, because, as Dawn pointed out in her email reply, “There are so many wonderful things going on in Speech & Debate here on campus.” The same could be said for the time I was there, and I’m sure it’s even more true now (well, at least when there’s actually people on campus, a problem we never had to contend with).
And Aaron was, indeed, able to assist in my search. He returned a roster of all the people who participated on the team in the 1970s, encompassing my entire time there, a list of 84 names, including many of yours and some others I had forgotten. From this, I was able to identify, almost immediately, the debate partner I had been trying to remember. His name, as I’m sure you have already guessed, was David E. Morrison. My subsequent searches have failed to uncover anything else about him, like where he is now or if he’s even still alive. Who knows, maybe he will somehow show up at the 150th Anniversary Dinner on April 3 (which also happens to be the anniversary of my years with Mary) of 2021 (also the year of my 50 year HS reunion). If he does, we may very well end up duking it out over how I abandoned him or because of how the political atmosphere has changed (though probably not, since we debated together - not against each other - during the Vietnam War years). It may seem I went to a lot of effort to come up with just a name, but it yielded so much more than that. To Shakespeare’s famous question, “What’s in a name?”, my answer is: a lot!