“In all debates, let truth be thy aim, not victory, or an unjust interest.”
― William Penn
The Talking Tigers Speech & Debate Program was founded in 2019, our school's inaugural year. We are members of the Metro Memphis Urban Debate League and the National Speech & Debate Association.
Since our 2019 inception, we have been extremely proud of our students' growth and success in speech and debate. Please explore this page for more information about our great program.
2019-2020 Team Profile
This was a historic and exceptional inaugural year for the University Middle Speech and Debate Team. This year, our team competed against over seventy-five other schools representing 19 states and four countries. Our students have researched and prepared to debate four major debate topics this year: U.S. arms sales to foreign states, U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, and Universal Basic Income. Though we were one of the only squads in the nation consisting entirely of sixth graders this year, our students have accumulated a bevy of awards of which we are very proud.
At our annual Model United Nations youth conference in December, Elijah S. was recognized as Outstanding Delegate.
At our second tournament of the year, hosted by Collierville High School in January, our squad won a third place sweepstakes award for total team points. Individual students also represented our school with great ability and poise. The public forum debate team of Arya D. and Aura K. won fifth place in the tournament. Both of our duet improvisational acting teams qualified for award recognition: Elijah S. and Kennedy W. in 5th place, and Zoha A. and Daphne A. in 4th place. Elijah S. also won 4th place in Impromptu Speaking and Zoha A. won 2nd.
At Metro Memphis Urban Debate League’s February tournament, the policy debate team of Rayelle B. and Elijah S. bested dozens of other SCS and area schools for an 8th place win.
While school building closures due to Covid-19 temporarily paused our debate team meetings, we rallied to compete in our first ever online tournament, hosted by Early Scholars Speech & Debate (New York) in April. At this tournament, the public forum debate team of Arya D. and Aura K. won third place. Three students were also recognized with individual speaking awards: Arya D. in 8th place, Zoha A. in 5th place, and Aura K. in 3rd place.
At our next online tournament, hosted by DC Urban Debate (DC), two of our public forum debate teams closed out the final spots. The team of Sophia H. and Elijah S. won 2nd place in the tournament and the team of Zoha A. and Brayden S. were tournament champions.
In one of our final tournaments of the year, the 2020 Urban Debate League's Middle School Nationals, the team of Arya D. and Aura K. advanced to bronze semifinals, where they dropped to our team of Rayelle B. and Elijah S. Rayelle and Elijah went on to compete against the gold bracket champions in the final round of the tournament, where they won on a 2-1 decision. The team will compete in 3-5 more tournaments this school year.
In our national honor society, the National Speech and Debate Association, several of our students have accumulated points towards outstanding recognition. Students are inducted into this society after accumulating 25 NSDA points through participating in public speaking events and tournaments. The students who have achieved this great honor this year are Brayden S., Kennedy W., Rayelle B., Zoha A., Arya D., Aura K. and and Elijah S. These students will be inducted into the society in a public ceremony, each with Degrees of Merit.
Team Photo Gallery
Talking Tigers News
Winning the final round of the Urban Debate League Middle School Nationals is a special accomplishment, and it speaks to the dedication of these students, who have poured many hours into research, writing, practicing and watching tapes of past debate rounds.
The success of our debate team is...an example of the type of school we have built at University Middle. One that is resilient and focused on facing the world’s problems head on with enthusiasm, integrity and ingenuity.
I view competitive debate as a catalyst for invested citizenship and student activism, and I see great value in teaching young people to find their voices as they speak their truths.
Lindsey Warden, UMS Coach
Mrs. Warden is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, and of Mercer University, where she debated from 2011-2015 in NPDA-style parliamentary debate. She was the 2015 State Champion in the Georgia Parliamentary Debate Association, and broke to octafinals in the National Parliamentary Debate Association, also winning tenth place speaker, that same year.
She has previously coached high school debate at Tiftarea Academy (Chula, Georgia) where her teams broke to deep out-rounds in tournaments hosted by Carson-Newman College, the University of Georgia, and the Georgia Independent Schools' Association State Championship among many others.
Mrs. Warden directed Samford University's Public Forum Debate Institute in Summer 2014 and Summer 2016, and has supported new debate programs at Bethlehem Christian Academy, Oglethorpe University, and Birmingham-Southern College.
Donald Warden, Volunteer Assistant
Mr. Warden is a graduate of the University of Memphis, and of Oglethorpe University, where he debated from 2012-2016 in NPDA-style parliamentary debate. He broke to semifinals at the 2016 State Championship of the Georgia Parliamentary Debate Association, and was also named Debater of the Year at that same tournament.
He is the founder of Oglethorpe University's debate team, serving as competitor, captain, and coach during his time in the program.
He has directed Samford University's Public Forum Debate Institute in Summer 2014 and 2015, and has assisted Mrs. Warden in planting and coaching new debate programs all over the South.
The Wardens met through their high school debate team in 2010. They are both lifetime members of the National Speech & Debate Association, where they hold degrees of Premier Distinction and Special Distinction respectively.