Last weekend, Miriam Pierson ’18 and Will Meyer ’17 won the American Parliamentary Debate Association National Championships at Rutgers University. This marks the first time both a female and liberal arts college have won nationals in nearly twenty years. The debate society brought two other teams to the tournament consisting of nearly 100 teams.
Pierson and Meyer debated a case on epistemology against the Yale Debate Association in the final round.
“Miriam and I tend to be stronger on topics like Politics and International Relations, so we were a bit nervous when they announced the topic. But it ended up being one of the best round I’ve ever been a part of and we pulled it off. To go out like that, it was like something out of a dream,” said Meyer. said.
After eight years of debating, this is the last tournament that Meyer will compete in.
“While I’ve had success before I’ve never achieved anything like this. It’s amazingly gratifying to end my debate career by winning the National Championships. It was made all the more special to do it with Miriam, who is an phenomenal debater and one of my best friends at Swarthmore,” he continued. “I literally fell out of my chair. I was that excited.”
Pierson noted that the win was a team effort.
“It was a great reward after everyone on our team had put so much into preparing for the tournament. One of the main reasons we’ve been uniquely successful despite being a small school is that we’ve always had a very close-knit community including a lot of alums who work to support us,” added Pierson.
Meyer has had eight years of competitive debate experience before winning. As for Pierson, she began debating her freshman year of high school as a way to improve her public speaking skills and get rid of her performance anxiety.
“I used to have bad performance anxiety; for example, I was always unable to remember the notes to pieces I had practiced a thousand times at piano recitals because I was too nervous. Debate wasn’t always an activity that was easy for me, but doing debate has taken me out of my comfort zone and made me more confident in myself,” she shared.
Pierson and Meyer further reflected on their time debating in Peaslee.
“Peaslee has been the defining part of my Swarthmore experience. I’m so grateful for all that the resources and opportunities the team has provided for me. I’ve gotten to travel all across the country and around the world doing what I love, and you can’t beat that. Most importantly, I’ve made so many great friends on this team. Being able to share our victory with them this weekend and bring a National Championship back to Swarthmore after 20 years was really a dream come true.” said Meyer.
Pierson remarked on how debate has improved her real-world skills.
“I’ve learned almost as much from doing debate as I have from all of my classes. Debating teaches you to think on your feet, challenge other people’s ideas, and express yourself clearly. But one of the main advantages is that debate forces you to think about questions outside of your major or minor,” echoed Pierson. “It’s also introduced me to some incredibly smart people from around the country who I know will be lifelong friends.”
This win marks the end of Peaslee’s debate season, and both Pierson and Meyer hope to see the Peaslee Debate Society excel into the future.