Debate: April 20, Field House, 7:30-9:30 PM
Topic: Deaf people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. 
Sponsors: Gallaudet Alumni Relations and President’s Office


  • Affirmative: Trent Mora (Gallaudet) and Jason Santiago (US Naval Academy)
  • Negative: Lexi Hill (Gallaudet) and Roy Choi (US Naval Academy)


  • Megan McArdle, Columnist, The Washington Post
  • Heather Artinian, Attorney, Latham & Watkins
  • Dr. Carolyn Washington, Colonel, U.S. Army (retired)


  • Romel Thurman, GU Debate Team Captain
  • JAC Cook, ’96, GU alumna

Warren “Wawa” Snipe, ’94, will perform the National Anthem

Watch us live:

This event will be in ASL and English with CART captioning.


Resolved: That deaf people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. 

In a recent study in support of a longstanding policy that deaf people are disqualified from serving in the U.S. military, the Department of Defense concluded that “significant barriers remain to allowing individuals with disabilities to access into the uniformed Services.”

The USNA-GU debate topic challenges the debaters to assess this claim and more broadly, the desirability of deaf people serving in the U.S. military. 

To win, the affirmative team must show persuasively that (1) deaf people are capable of being combat-ready; and (2) it is in the public interest to allow deaf people to serve in the U.S. military.

The negative wins by rebutting the proposition that allowing deaf people to serve in the military is in the public interest. It can win by either refuting the specific claim that deaf people are capable enough for combat, or rebutting the general claim that a military with deaf people is more desirable for the country.

For example, the negative can win by conceding that allowing deaf people to serve in the U.S. military has unique benefits, but showing that the economic, moral, political, and/or practical costs for the country would amount to a net loss.

The debate is about deafness per se as a qualifying criteria for military service. Therefore, a “case by case” argument or “raising the DB limit to _____” is not a legitimate proposal for the affirmative.

The debate focuses on the capability of deaf people to serve and its desirability for the country, not the political feasibility of the proposal. The topic asks whether deaf people should be allowed to serve in the military, but does not require that the affirmative show, for example, that a majority of voters in the United States would support the policy.


The affirmative and negative teams will have one debater apiece from USNA and Gallaudet, a novel approach that is designed to bring in broader perspectives and promote deeper understandings. 

  • Opening Audience Poll
  • Debate Format:
    • 1st Affirmative Speech – 6 Minutes (Mora)
    • Cross Examination – 4 Minutes (conducted by 2nd Negative Speaker) (Choi)
    • 1st Negative Speech – 6 Minutes (Hill) 
    • Cross Examination – 4 Minutes (conducted by 1st Affirmative speaker) (Mora) 
    • 2nd Affirmative Speech – 6 Minutes (Santiago)
    • Cross Examination – 4 Minutes (conducted by first Negative Speaker) (Hill) 
    • 2nd Negative Speech – 6 Minutes (Choi)
    • Cross Examination – 4 Minutes (conducted by second Affirmative Speaker) (Santiago) 
    • Judges identify primary issues they would like the teams to address further
    • 3 minutes preparation time alloted for the teams
    • Concluding Affirmative rebuttal – 6 Minutes (1st Affirmative Speaker) (Mora)
    • Concluding Negative rebuttal – 6 Minutes (1st Negative Speaker) (Hill) 
  • Post-round Audience Poll
  • Judge Feedback
  • Q&A session with the audience
  • Judge discussion in private (@10 minutes) to select winning team


The criteria for judging the students’ debating performance are as follows: The judges should strive to select the team that has done the better debating in the round. It’s paramount that this analysis should reflect the substantive logic, research, and analysis of the teams. That is, judges should assess which team has done a better job building their case, defending their case, and rebutting their opponents’ case using logic and, as necessary, evidence. Further, if the substantive elements of the debate are exceedingly close, judges should consider the presentational aspects of the debate. For both of these considerations, judges should consider the following elements when assessing the students’ debate performance:

  • solid logic, reasoning, and analysis,
  • compelling evidence, 
  • persuasive storytelling, 
  • overarching presentation of a clash of ideas and values, and
  • eloquent, organized, and civil communication.

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“Deaf People in the Military” USNA-GU Debate


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