Blackburn Places at the Big Bronx Invitational Tournament


Courtesy of Isaac Blackburn

Aidan Cocuelle, Reporter, Senior

Pelham Memorial High School’s very own Isaac Blackburn classed 6th place in the category of  Congressional Debate at the Big Bronx Invitational Forensics Tournament, held virtually by the Bronx High School of Science. Nearly 1,500 debaters, speakers, judges and alumni were present at this large event; approximately 130 contestants competed in over 1,000 subordinate competitions in debate and speech that were held. With such a large group of contestants, some competing internationally, the stakes were high.

Blackburn said, “The debate was very competitive, more so in the later rounds… We debated about 15 different pieces of legislation on a wide range of topics. One bill, for example, would recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, while another would effectively reverse the Citizens United ruling.”

The two-day event commenced 8 a.m. Saturday, October 17, with the premier day of competition ending at On Sunday, October 18 the semifinal and final rounds were held. This was the Tournament’s 50th annual event-and for the first time ever- it was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it was a huge adjustment, the event was a success and ran smoothly.

Blackburn said, “It turns out that even through a Zoom meeting, it’s very easy to hear speeches clearly and even pick up on softer things like posture, and you can judge quality in the same way that you would judge it in a live round.”

Pelham Speech coaches Mr. Thomas Beck and Mr. Neil Schleifer participated in the competition, with Mr. Beck helping to run the tournament and Mr. Schleifer judging.

Mr.  Beck said, “This is a huge international tournament and this year it was even bigger. This year, because it was all virtual, many schools who had wanted to take part in a prestigious tournament in the past, but couldn’t because airfare and hotel costs were prohibitive, were able to compete. This included national and international teams. This was Isaac’s fourth time participating, starting as a freshman. Last year, he was a semifinalist.”

In a political year such as this one, participating in Congressional Debate is a strong way of exploring how legislation gets written, discussed and voted upon.

“It  is like watching CSPAN!” Mr. Beck said.