Debate-in quotables

These quotations were derived from interviews designed to generate quotable background material for journalists interested in covering the Debate-in. The interviews took place between November 9-11, 2001, and were conducted via telephone and email by Gordon Mitchell.

In a crisis, when the stakes are so high, it is especially important to pursue exactly the sort of analysis that debate teaches. When we are dealing with lives, with enormous economic stakes, it is so important that there be open debate of alternatives. That is the best way of preventing tragic mistakes. Dissent is never disloyal. Debating something is one of the most patriotic things we can do. One mistake that has often been made in the past is to equate those who want to question and challenge with those who are disloyal. That is just wrong. So I think that by debating, we send one of the best messages we can about how we should go about making decisions as a society and what it is we are really fighting for.

--Erwin Chemerinsky, Sydney M. Irmas Professor of Public Interest Law, Legal Ethics and Political Science at the University of Southern California School of Law; American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California Board of Directors, 1987-98; Advisor on Constitution Drafting for the Republic of Belarus, American Bar Association, Central and Eastern European Law Initiative; and frequent commentator on CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS television news.

If ever there is a time when critical thinking and debate should be especially valued, it’s in a time of crisis. Patriotism and unity are very important values. But even more important is informed judgment that is the product of critical discussion and debate. It’s important that we understand what we are united about and why. It’s important that we not allow our patriotism to mislead or misdirect us. And we must remember that the civilization and society we struggle to preserve is precisely a society that values critical thinking, reasoned advocacy, discussion, and debate. I am tremendously encouraged by the fact that the best debate students in the U.S. are devoting their energies and resources to this project and that the public is being invited in as well.

--David Zarefsky, John Evans Professor of Speech and Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University; former Dean of the School of Speech at Northwestern; renowned expert on the Lincoln-Douglas debates; board member of the Center for Presidential Studies; and author of several award winning books, including Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990).