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Debate questions governmental moral obligations

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Minh Anh Nguyen ('20) argues for a globalist perspective.

Minh Anh Nguyen ('20) argues for a globalist perspective.

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips

Minh Anh Nguyen ('20) argues for a globalist perspective.

Grace Onsrud, Staff Writer

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The Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE) and the Philosophy Society held the second Daniel H. Andreotti Memorial Student Debate on Feb. 28 in the Center For Faith and Life Recital Hall (CRH). The debate focused on the question: “Is a government’s primary moral obligation to its own citizens or to the people of the world?”

Nazario Jap Dos Santos (‘19) and Ismail Hamid (‘19) argued for obligations to a country’s own citizens, while Rebecka Green (‘19) and Minh Anh Nguyen (‘20) argued for obligations to the people of the world.

Both debates were organized by moderator Max Eness (‘20) and named after Daniel Andreotti, a close friend of Eness who passed away last year. Eness mentioned him in his opening to the debate.

Green said that Eness reached out to her and the other participants in the debate with his question idea in January, and the five of them began to research the topic and prepare arguments soon after. Most of the preparation was done in the three weeks leading up to the debate, when the participants met biweekly to plan their arguments.

The debate was mostly scripted as each side knew the other side’s arguments ahead of time. The Q&A periods following each round of arguments were almost entirely unscripted.

Green said that she hopes the debate pushed the audience to think more deeply about their beliefs on nationality.

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips
Ismail Hamid (’19) presents his argument at the second Daniel H. Andreotti Student Debate.

“Perhaps people will take their politics and go even a step further and ask, ‘why do I think that nationalism is good or bad?’ Why do I think globalism is good or bad?” Green said. “I want the audience to push themselves even harder about their own beliefs and moral systems after this debate and to better understand where they and others are coming from when it comes to how they approach nationality.”

Hamid, said that his desire to learn about the topic and the debate process led him to participate, regardless of his own beliefs.

“I don’t necessarily agree with all the ideas in my position, but I wanted to get into the exercise of researching a certain side and being able to articulate an argument,” Hamid said. “[I definitely wanted to be a part of]this and seeing what a constructive conversation looks like and the fact that we need more of that in society right now.”

Nguyen also learned from the debate, as this was her first time participating in a formal debate.

“I learned a lot about clarity and being as minimal and simple as I can [in an argument],” Nguyen said.

Dos Santos said that he was drawn to participate in the event because of the importance of this topic in his life and culture. He hopes that the debate illustrated the complexities of the issue.

“I do believe that the government should care about its people and prioritize its citizens to guarantee the survival of the country,” Dos Santos said. “And one of the reasons is because of my background. I come from [East Timor], so I believe that the survival of the country is very essential and we have to put our self-interest first. I think the issue is the rise of far right nationalists everywhere.”

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips
Rebecka Green (’19) presents a globalist position at the student debate.

Eness said that he participated in formal debates during high school and developed the idea to organize the Daniel H. Andreotti Memorial Student Debates because of a lack of formal debate at Luther.

“I think it came from what I saw as a lack of public rigor at Luther,” Eness said. “We all go to our classes and write stuff but we don’t get to apply those academic skills in public life … Formal debate is something that was missing on Luther’s campus.”

Attendee Sean McKenzie (‘20) said that he enjoyed the debate and admired the work of the participants.

“The debaters were really well prepared and they knew their positions inside and out,” McKenzie said. “I hope the CEPE continues to put on events similar to this.”

According to Eness, the debates will continue during the next academic year, but with a new organizer and moderator since he will study abroad. He encourages participation in future debates from any students who are interested.

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