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October 17, 2014

Barone wins 17th annual Life Raft Debate

As told by Professor Michael Patton . . .

Yes, that’s right, there is a consensus emerging among long-time Life Raft Debate aficionados that last night’s (Oct. 9) 17th annual debate was one of the best in LRD history. It was certainly hard to decide whom to vote for.

With a packed Palmer Auditorium, attendance was estimated at more than 800 and there were at least 50 more people watching the debate live at www.youtube.com/user/MontevalloForYou. If you missed the debate, you can watch it there when the final version is processed and posted. Trust me, it’s a doozy.

Defending champion Scott Varagona starting things off with an impassioned plea for continuity of leadership, claiming that the constant change in leadership over the last 16 years had not done us any favors. He claimed that he had kept us all alive for a year so far and deserved a second year for everyone’s sake.

Close on Scott’s heels we were treated to John Stewart’s broad-ranging defense of the need for an administrator on the raft. Claiming the ability to feed us, shelter us and to help us repopulate the world, John said without a strategic plan, the rafters would dissolve into chaos very quickly. He extolled his seafaring skills, his teaching abilities and willingness to take one for the team if we had the misfortune to land in New Jersey and were faced with having to continue the species with Snooki.

Next up, defending literature, Samantha Webb decried the current trend of marginalizing literature. Hardly a luxury to be indulged in after studying more “useful” topics, Sam explained that literature has the power to make us more humane, tolerant and wise. Besides being rooted in history, literature also looks forward and imagines a better world to which we can aspire. The classics reveal central human themes that, if pondered, can lead us to a form of life that will avoid the destruction that the current world has suffered, mostly at the hands of the so-called more important disciplines.

Stacy Bishop then took the stage to extol the virtues of kinesiology, which he assured us would abolish the scourge of many societal ills such as obesity. Physical fitness would be equivalent to overall fitness to thrive in the new world, and, in addition, the science of kinesiology offers much needed knowledge of other areas such as nutrition. He also implied that he was himself I fine specimen of fitness and would use his physical prowess to the good of all if voted onto the raft.

After Stacy, Jeremy Carlson approached the bench to argue for law’s rightful place on the life raft. He said that if the panelists were honest with themselves, they’d all have to admit that lawlessness in the new world was simply not an option. Without the rule of law, there’d be no hope of long-term survival. Jeremy claimed that given the centrality of law to any society, the only reasonable thing to do would be to take a legal expert on the raft to help found the new world.

And last but not least, Robert Barone took the mic to argue once again for history. A veteran of the very first debate, Robert announced that the oar had been stolen from him back in 1998 and that he was back to become its rightful owner. His impassioned defense of history claimed that without history as a guide, we would repeat all of the mistakes that have plagued the world to date, including the mistakes that eventually destroyed the world. With his thoroughgoing knowledge of history, Robert said he would be able to steer the nascent society safely through the perils the lie ahead. Plus, he gave a brief yet compelling demonstration of his own physical fitness and ability to stretch.

After the panelists exchanged some barbed rebuttals and some further defenses of their disciplines, the Devil’s Advocate, Steve Parker, made a surprise appearance on the stage to thunderous applause. With wry wit and biting insight, Steve gave a fast-paced takedown of each of the panelists except for Sam Webb, who he said he could no more criticize than he could club a baby seal. The others, however, were not so lucky as to be spared. I honestly can’t do justice to Steve’s remarks here, so if you weren’t there, watch the video online. Heck, even if you were there, you should watch the whole debate again. It is certain to live on in debate history as one of the best!

In the end, well over 600 votes were cast. The heroic Kristen Gilbert tallied the votes and Robert Barone climbed aboard the raft, leaving the others to drift away to certain doom.

I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated, attended and helped to make this event such a great success.