Partner Spotlight: Mark Webber
This season, our Spanish Debate League as held virtually, and our programs grew, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic! To cover judges for our middle and high school tournaments, we began national outreach. Little did we know that we would have a chance to recruit international judges, too!
Mark Webber, who is the President of the Asociación Mexicana de Debate A.C., helped recruit us more than a dozen judges from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and more. We are grateful that he helped forge new connections between our students and these Spanish-fluent judges, many of whom are current and former debaters.
Read on to learn more about Mark’s work in Mexico, why he values Spanish Debate, and how to get involved with this cross-country exchange.
Tell us more about your organization.
I am very proud to be the President of Asociación Mexicana de Debate A.C. We have struggled to get where we are today, but it was all done by people who came up through our fledgling debate network. Since then, we have been able to work with students throughout Mexico and Latin America to spread debate as far and wide as we can. I feel strongly that young people can use debate to access the information that they need to make their corner of the world a better place and give them the voice that they need to speak up when that is not happening.
Our organization has also hosted the World Universities Debating Championships as well as the World Schools Debating Championships as well as competing on a high level at both of these competitions in English. This is also important because through these elite events, such as the world championships, our students can clearly see that they can also compete and beat some of the best teams in the world. There is no difference between our kids and the kids that come from the top rated education programs.
I think that there is no photo that embodies the spirit of the Mexican Debate circuit more than this one. This is the finals round on the last night of the Mexican Debate Camp and there was a big storm while we were holding finals. In the middle of the round, the lights went out and without missing a beat every student watching the debate whipped out their cell phones and turned on their lights to help the debaters finish the debate. That is what we do. We bring light so that the team can go forward!
How did you get involved with debate?
I wasn’t a debater. I was into theatre and forensics in high school. I did Prose, Poetry, Duet Acting, Readers Theatre in high school and college. However, I needed someone to play a lawyer for a duo interpretation scene I was doing from the play called “Nuts” at a university tournament. One of our debaters said he would do it if I would debate at the next tournament. I used to watch the debates because they were always the last ones competing and I knew how to flow so I agreed. We went 3-1 but didn’t break. I didn’t really love debate until I started teaching a few years, after and my middle school students were interested in it.
What do you think is the value of debate?
I think debate is one of the greatest things that any student could do as an activity or a class. It changes lives. It gives students skills that separates them from most of their peers, academically and professionally. I understand that not everyone takes to it. However, if they do, and they really put in a good effort, they can have a truly transformative experience. That is why I have been coaching debate around the world for over 30 years.
What do you dedicate your time to promoting debate in Spanish?
I think it is very important that students debate in Spanish because if that is their mother tongue, then they get to express themself in a way that they may not feel that they can do fully in English or other languages. Also, I think it is important because we are growing the leagues in Latin America and some countries are just getting started in debate. Debate was not even used in Presidential elections in Mexico until 1994! I hope that the Spanish speaking debaters in the US make connections with Spanish speaking debaters in Latin America and that this form of dialogue continues to create the educational revolution in Latin America. Latin America and Spanish speaking people all over the world need this form of dialogue, not just for the elite, but for the masses.
Are there any opportunities for folks in the USA to get involved with your work, too?
We have a high school/middle school World Schools Debate summer camp that is open to debaters from the USA. The camp is in English. We host tournaments in English and Spanish and would warmly welcome teams from the USA. Also, Asociación Mexicana de Debate A.C. is frequently looking for judges and coaches for online training sessions and tournaments. If anyone wants to contact me about any of this they can reach out to me at email@example.com and I will be happy to connect them with the right person.