By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott was among seven ‘VIP judges’ for the finals in the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA) District A Regional Qualifying Debate Tournament held at Columbia International University (CIU), Sat., Mar. 11.
The participants – approximately 150 homeschooled high school students from South Carolina., North Carolina, and Georgia – debated fellow students from the Southeastern region throughout the week at CIU, qualifying in each round before advancing to the next level in the tournament leading to Sat. evening’s finals.
Sheriff Lott judged the Lincoln-Douglas Debate (one of two final rounds including the Team Policy Debate). In the Lincoln-Douglas round, the argument posed for resolution was; “When in conflict [should] rehabilitation should be valued over retribution in the criminal justice system?” Debating one another were Nathaniel Thompson of Georgia and Kaitlyn Butts of North Carolina. Butts won the final round.
“By the time students advance to the finals, you really have the best of the best,” said Lott, who – as sheriff – leads one of the largest law-enforcement agencies in the state. “The competition was keen, and it was frankly heartening for me to see young leaders like Kaitlyn and Nathaniel arguing from their positions as well as they did. Keep in mind, these are teenagers. And it would be hard for most adults to match wits with their argumentation and debate skills.”
In addition to Lott, the judges for the Lincoln-Douglas round included: attorney Alexis Vitali Blitch, retired U.S. Army officer and languages expert Jim Fuller, attorney James Robey, businessman Alex Bailey, Hannah Shackleford with Teach for America, and former S.C. Rep. Warren Arthur.
“The event was a huge success and shined a very favorable light on the Columbia community,” said Jana Daley, judge liaison director for the tournament. “I would say the two most critical factors that impacted our success were the number of people from the community who came to serve as judges and the gracious hospitality of Columbia International University.”
In 1997, the NCFCA was founded with a mission “to promote excellence in communications through competitive opportunities where homeschool students develop the skills necessary to think critically and communicate effectively in order to address life issues from a biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God.”
Founded in 1923, CIU has for years hosted the NCFCA’s regional debate tournament.