23rd Dumb Ox debate assures that the American experiment has not failed

Photo by Mary-Grace Byers

Theresa Balick

Staff Writer

Students voted in opposition to the proposed motion at the 23rd Dumb Ox debate, the first of the semester, Sunday, Feb. 21, in the Gentile Gallery. The motion of the debate was “This house believes that the American experiment has failed.”

The gallery, which hosted the debate for the first time in nearly a year due to COVID-19, was filled to capacity.

The motion failed in a close vote with a margin of eight points, with six abstaining.

Sophomore Jared Johnson opened the debate with an argument for the affirming side. He defined the American experiment as a system which operates a nation based off of the principles of the preamble, such as justice and liberty. He argued from a historical perspective that the American experiment of a democratic republic run by and for the people has failed.

“The experiment was, ‘can we apply our principles to this land so diverse, so vast,’ and clearly that hasn’t really worked,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s partner, sophomore Sarah Lynn Nelson, said that America’s main problem is the fact that the nation, not God, currently is the authority determining what is right and what is wrong.

“Is justice whatever the people decide?” Nelson said. “What is established justice if we aren’t under the rule of God?”

Following Johnson was the first opposing speech, given by junior Alex McKenna. McKenna defined the American experiment as “a stable democratic republic that enshrines liberty and law” and argued that the immorality present in the nation today comes from the failure of the human heart, not the nation.

“We can look at moral dilemmas … but at the end of the day we have to ask ourselves the question: was that enshrined in the Constitution or enshrined in the hearts of people today?” McKenna said.

The second opposing speech from junior Joshua Schutte concluded the opening speeches. Schutte walked through the five points of the preamble and explained how each principle, especially when compared to other countries, still holds in today’s society.

After the opening speeches, the debate moved into the open floor speeches, where anyone in the audience could present an argument for five minutes for either side. The majority of the speeches affirmed the motion.

Graduate student Alex Denley said, “The experiment we have made is no longer the original American experiment.”

After the open floor portion of the debate, the lightning round speeches began, which provided students with the opportunity to speak for two minutes. Following the lightning round, one of the two original presenters from each side gave a closing speech before the chairman took the vote.

Junior Elizabeth Williams said she was glad the debate was back in the gallery and she loved the energy in the room.

“Everyone got so fired up, and there were some really great arguments,” Williams said.

The debate was hosted by the Veritas Society.