|by Ian Bonhotal '12 • November 13, 2008|
Wabash's Monon Bell week, perhaps one of the most exciting periods of each year's first semester, spreads school spirit across the campus like wildfire. Though the week culminates in the Bell game on Saturday, students have already demonstrated the poignancy of the Wabash-DePauw rivalry in Wednesday's Monon Bell Debate, in which two students from each school represented a different side of the ambiguous topic, "Hail to the New Chief."
Representing Wabash were seniors Grant Gussman, of Theta Delta Chi, and Rob Bloss, of Kappa Sigma. The duo took on the role of "the opposition" within the debate, arguing against the topic. Keelin Kelly and Michael Lutz bravely made the sojourn to Crawfordsville from Greencastle, and acted as "the government," meaning they advocated for the topic. "We welcome our fellow debaters to Wabash on this dreary day," said Bloss, referring to the incessant rain. "We welcome them on this dreary day, which is only the beginning of what will be a very dreary week for DePauw."
Todd McDorman, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Rhetoric, opened the event with a few words regarding the resurrection of the debate tradition, the spirit of the rivalry with DePauw, and the importance of civility toward said rivals by the Wabash Gentleman. "This debate honors the tradition of the Monon Rivalry," McDorman said. "The annual competition between our two schools, once suspended due to lack of sportsmanship, has been resurrected over the years in the hopes that we might maintain friendly rivalry. Therefore, all present are expected to behave civilly toward one another during this event."
Kelly, role-playing the Prime Minister for DePauw on the government side of the issue, began by setting the parameters of the topic. She interpreted "Hail to the New Chief" as pertaining to the recent presidential election, and the New Chief as President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama. Kelly advocated three major reasons why we, as a nation, should hail Obama: He has the support of the International community; he will have major positive impacts on America's domestic political divisions; and he will affect policy changes by overturning many of the Bush Administration's precedents over the past eight years. Describing his domestic significance, Kelly said that "President-Elect Obama will heal racial wounds which have festered within this country for far too long. He will unite America's diverse ethnicities, religions, and partisanships and make the country whole once again."
The Wabash debaters, however, would have none of it and, as is the right of the opposition if they feel the topic has been unclearly defined, reinterpreted the debate to instead regard Saturday's upcoming football game. They proceeded, in a light-hearted, good-natured manner, to cite the strengths of this year's Little Giants team, as well as to endorse inevitable Wabash win. "The Wabash College football team is, in every way, superior," stated Gussman. "We by no means mean to call the DePauw team weak. We only seek to state that Wabash is better. The outcome is such a forgone conclusion it may be assumed [to be a Wabash victory]."
The Dannies argued valiantly for the converse but, to no avail. Wabash, through a vote by the spectators of the debate, won. This may be, though, in part due to the fact that the majority of the audience was indeed from Wabash. But that isn't likely. In any case, the College's victory on Wednesday sets the stage for another, even more important and anticipated victory on Saturday.