James Jones, president, National Association of Parliamentarians
The Lincoln-Douglas debates are a testimony not only to sharp minds but to strong constitutions: Each one lasted more than three hours—and the men did it seven times!
J. Scott Wunn, executive director, National Speech and Debate Association
The 1896 Democratic Convention debate over whether to endorse the gold standard instead of “free silver” determined American monetary policy on and off until 1971. After hearing William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech, the delegates adopted a pro-silver platform and nominated Bryan for president. He lost; gold won. (Nixon would later do what Bryan could not: eliminate the gold standard.)
Johanna M. Hanink, associate professor of classics, Brown University
Medea and Jason’s argument in Euripides’s Medea is the original breakup blowout. When these two characters first traded digs on the Athenian stage in 431 b.c., they provided a model of sophistic rhetoric and a blueprint for a truly classic tradition: informing a partner, “It’s not me; it’s you.”
Tiffany Dupont, actor, Brian Banks
When I was growing up, it was Biggie versus Tupac. Also, if we’re being real about Titanic, there was definitely enough room for Jack on that piece of driftwood. But ultimately, “To be or not to be?” has always been the debate.