| Introduction | 11/22 | 11/23 | 11/24 | 11/25 | 11/26 | 11/27 | 11/28 | 11/29 | Alfred C. Snider | Debate Central |
I awoke refreshed and ready for my first day of debate activities, although most of them would not take place until later in the day. The breakfast at Hotel Conde Ansurez was predictable and tasty; with the twisted bread they served tasting as if it had come out of the baking oven moments before.
After breakfast I decided on an early morning walk to scout out the neighborhood a bit more and see if I could find some blank CDs to buy so that I could make some music CDs as gifts for friends in Chile. My iBook carries over 3000 songs, so I am able to select special songs for special people and burn them in just a few minutes. My iBook is truly my portable entertainment and information center, my most valuable traveling companion. The neighborhood was much busier than it had been the previous day, Sunday, and it was clear that this was, in fact, the neighborhood of the universities as young people who looked like students seemed to be everywhere. The buses were running and the traffic was heavy. I noticed that there were many, many more Internet café-shops in the area, at least four within 100 meters of the hotel. I knew that if I needed Internet access it would be easy to find. I did find several small shops also offering computer accessories, and scouted several until I found a very inexpensive set of CDs and bought ten of them for a very reasonable price, especially given that they were high quality 40x discs. After a bit more wandering around I discovered the basic food and supply store I would need.
The streets were vibrant with a youthful population. I noticed that many men wore their hair in dreadlocks, a much higher percentage than you would see on any American street, even higher than one would see in Burlington, Vermont. The mobile phone craze seemed to have hit Chile as well and many people talked as they walked, a decided change since I had been here some 20 months before.
Back in my hotel room I was catching up on the news I heard some interesting noise outside my window. It turned out that a student protest march was taking place on Calle Republica outside my window. The avenue led down to the main street in Santiago (called the Alameda, although it has several different names, and at this point it was Boulevard Liberator Bernardo O’Higgins) and I watched them march down towards the main boulevard and by the McDonald’s across the street. I could not decipher what it was they were protecting given my weak Spanish. In any case they had considerable energy and determination and there were about 150 school children all in school uniforms marching along with banners they had made, blowing whistles, and chanting slogans. I like this country – people have opinions and they express them loudly but in a non-violent manner. This phalanx of neatly dressed school children was a clear example of that.
After just a brief time in Chile it became clear to me what the most often spoken phrases I used were. "You soy Americano" along with "Me habla espanol poco" were remarks that I prefaced many of my conversations with. This seemed honest and described my situation. This allowed me to use my fairly extensive Spanish vocabulary in tandem with my miserable Spanish grammar in a way that people appreciated. People seemed top like that I was trying very hard to communicate in Spanish even though I was far from adequate in my attempt. Most taxi drivers would attempt a conversation even though they knew almost no English, and I was able to respond to most of their initiated conversations, but often after at least one repetition. My experience is that non-English speakers are much more tolerant of our attempts t speak their language than we are in the reverse situation, and I was very thankful for this.
I went back to work on some of my lectures and during a break I decided to adjust the time zone on my iBook so that it would tell me the correct time, there being no clock in my room. I was surprised to notice that Santiago time was two hours later than New York time, even though Santiago is near the Pacific coast of South America. In fact, it is only three hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time. I know that soon I will stop worrying about time zones wherever I am and just think in GMT so that I have full temporal orientation wherever I am. Perhaps then I will be a true world citizen.
As I began to think more and more of all the things on my schedule and all of the things I want to accomplish here in Chile I began making lists. For those of you who do not know me, making lists is one of my habits. John Meany is often making fun of me for this habit, but it helps me remember and prioritize things. I had a list of events and engagements, a list of things I needed to find out or do (a very practical list, and a list of issues I wanted to deal with during my visit. As lists go these were very pleasant.
| LOGO OF SOCIEDAD DE DEBATE | MURAL IN DIEGO PORTALES DEBATE OFFICE |
I left the hotel and decided to walk to Universidad Diego Portales for a visit with my friends at Sociedad de Debate before the events of the evening. They have new offices at 237 Ejercito, just a few blocks from my hotel. The new offices seemed much larger than their previous facilities, and I realized why this was needed when I noticed how the staff had been increased. Benito Escobar is now also in charge of cultural affairs at UDP, and so there were far more people around, but also more people working exclusively on debate. Besides Benito there is Francisco Mas (I am told to call him Paco), Paola Bernales, Claudio Fuentes, Andres Kalawski, as well as Miguel (who worked camera during most of my presentations) and Andrea who seemed to be in charge of office affairs for Sociedad de Debate. They seemed pleased to give me a tour of their office space, including a large open space for the public to use that has a large and colorful mural on the wall. After meetings with Benito and Francisco (where many things were crossed off my list) I had a chance to meet with Rodrigo, a journalist who would be my translator during my presentations on Tuesday. We reviewed the texts I had sent down some days and weeks earlier and cleared up a few language issues, but also Rodrigo gave me some background about the Chilean school system and related youth issues so that I would be able to better relate to the students as well as refine the debate topics I was going to brainstorm through with them. I also had a chance to meet with Claudio and Andres, two individuals I had not met previously. They are working on a communication concept they call status theory and wanted to share it with me. It recognizes the inherent status dimensions in any human communication and attempts to chart how the communication event is influenced both by differences in status and status changes intended and produced by the communication event itself.
| RODRIGO MY TRANSLATOR FOR UDP WORKSHOP | CLAUDIO AND ANDRES EXPLAIN "STATUS THEORY" |
Time got away from us and soon Benito was signaling to me that we needed to be on our way to my hotel so that I could change clothing for the events of the evening. We quickly did so and I threw on my “money outfit,” the one I had worn during my 60 Minutes interview. I appreciate the help others have given me in choosing this outfit because as you may know I am somewhat of a fashion barbarian, partly because of my preference for informality as well as my condition of serious red-green color blindness. I have a dark grey suit, shiny black shoes (only worn for formal occasions so the shine will last), a dark blue cobalt shirt, and a distinctive hand painted silk tie picked out for me in Korea by Dr. Kyung-Ja Lee, head of Korean Broadcasting at the time (she has now left this political appointment and become a dean at Kyung Hee University in Seoul). The combination was suggested by Lana Langsweirdt, one of my current debaters, who has quite an accomplished and unique sense of fashion.
We rode the subway to our destination, the Old Congress building in the center of town. It was a stately building from the outside, but very impressive from the inside. In the main chamber people were already gathering for the debate, and we were perfectly on time. As we made our way in I heard my name being called and turned around to see Alvaro Ferrer, one of the excellent Chilean debaters who had been at WDI in Vermont last summer. It was good to see him again, and I learned that he was the coach for one of the teams in the finals, Universidad La Maritima. We traded news about ourselves and I wished him the best of luck in the upcoming debate, using a phrase that policy debate coaches often use in the USA before a debate but that I will not repeat here, as it might seem impolite. I often follow this phrase with "in an intellectual sense, of course."
| LEFT AND RIGHT VIEWS OF THE AUDIENCE FOR THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY DEBATE FINALS IN THE OLD SENATE CHAMBER |
The hall for the debate was very impressive, and designed as one would expect a legislative chamber to be designed, with elaborate lecterns in the front and rows of ornate chairs at the sides for the legislators to use. I found my marked seat, and sure enough, Drina had me seated in the front row only one seat away from the front. I was seated next to a distinguished member of the Santiago city council, and we had a most enjoyable conversation. Drina arrived and I had a short conversation with her, but she was obviously and properly preoccupied with staging this most important event – the national university debate championship for Chile, “Torneo Interuniversitario de Chile.” I am told that in the last few years since the event began it has grown and prospered under the sponsorship of Corporacion Cultural de lo Barnechea (COBA) and the personal planning of Drina Rendic. From just a few schools now 45 schools have taken part. This year as many as twenty student debaters at each university were trained, and then a final team of six students was selected to represent each school. These teams then engaged in a series of debates during the year to arrive at this moment – the best two teams. The two traditional debate powerhouses in Chile, UDP and Universidad Central de Chile, had both been eliminated in earlier upsets by La Maritima and Universidad Republica. I snapped a few photos of the beautiful setting as the debate began. I must say that while the mural above the speaker’s chair was lovely and surely traditional, depicting the “discovery of Chile,” it did not put the conquistadores and the native peoples in the light I would prefer, but was still an impressive and huge piece of art. But, as one person mentioned to me later that evening, Chile had been fortunate in that it had no gold and so avoided some of the pain and blood colonialism had inflicted on places such as Peru and Argentina.
JUDGES FOR THE NATIONAL FINALS |
| JUDGES FOR THE NATIONAL FINALS |
The judges took their seats, the teams came in to applause, and the debate was about to begin. An announcer with a beautiful voice introduced the judges one by one, and they seemed a glittering set of Chilean individuals, including the Minister of Education, the President of the Senate, editors of major newspapers, leading corporate figures, and representatives in Chile of firms such as American Airlines. I was impressed that so many important people had sacrificed a lovely Chilean evening to hear a debate.
Both teams had six members. Each side would give three speeches to construct their major arguments. After this there would be a short break for strategy and consultation, followed by three more speeches from each side. Each speech would be three minutes in length. I would prefer longer speech times, but this format made for a very rapid moving and exciting debate. The topic was, “Preventive war by the United States against Iraq is justified.” I was surprised to find the topic not directly related to Chilean affairs, but it is an important one and a topic about which Chileans have very strong opinions. I think this was a good topic to choose for a major public debate such as this. La Republica was the "Yes" team and La Maritima was the "No" team. I gave Alvaro a good luck sign as the debate was about to begin.
The President of the Senate made a few remarks, and they impressed me. He said that in the past, as recently as the 1970’s, political debate had been very vibrant and active in Chile, but that now in the post-Pinochet years the political debate was unsatisfactory in quality and extent, and he welcomed this university debate as a way to improve the critical climate in the country as a whole. This was an impressive admission by him that the body he leads, the Senate of Chile, needs to improve its democratic argument process. It would have been easy for him to say something perfunctory and flattering but he chose to say something far more meaningful. He impressed me. Then, Senor Balas, head of COBA, who acted as the moderator, called for order. The topic for the debate was read and the first speaker introduced.
| "YES" TEAM FROM UNIVERSIDAD LA REPUBLICA |
While the speeches were short they were very enthusiastic and delivered at quite a rapid pace. People who say only Americans speak quickly in debates have not heard a Chilean debate such as this. With only three minutes each speaker had a lot of conceptual territory to cover and they went at it with a great deal of energy and dynamism. The crowd seemed very involved in the debate, with everyone I could see very attentive. At the end of each speech there would be a sort of “hurrah” from the crowd, and all of the important people around me (the ones in the seats marked by their names) would smile and roll their eyes in various forms of approval for the just concluded speech. It was one of the most active and involved audiences I have ever seen for a public debate. In seemingly just a few moments the six “constructive” speeches were concluded and the “conference” period was underway. Each team formed a circle and were vigorously discussing what their strategy should be in the rebuttal. They had covered almost all of the relevant issues, such as the need to stop the use of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, the possibilities of civilian casualties in such a war, the need to end the cruel and murderous regime of Saddam Hussein, the dangerous and illegal precedent set by “preventive war,” and other issues. I did not hear a discussion of problems this would create in post war Iraq (a Kurdish state triggering a dangerous reaction by Turkey, an Iranian follow-on attack in Southern Iraq to annex desired territory), or attack on Israel resulting in massive Israeli retaliation, but this could have been because of my faulty Spanish combined with their rapid delivery.
| "NO" TEAM FROM UNIVERSIDAD LA MARITIMA |
After the conference period there were six more speeches, as energetic and rapid as they had been before, but these seemed mostly unscripted. The last two rebuttals were very passionate and summarized the major issues each side was banking on to win the debate. There was a huge round of applause and cheering as each side gave ended their final speech.
The judges then began their deliberation and the filling out of their ballots. During this period there was a speaker so that the audience would be occupied and entertained while the judges deliberated. The speaker was a neurolinguist and gave a speech about language creating thought and reality. I learned that this concept of "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" is quite popular in Chile, and is widely used in political campaigns. It is something I need to learn more about.
| THE WINNING TEAM FROM UNIVERSIDAD LA REPUBLICA | THE TOP SPEAKER FROM UNIVERSIDAD LA MARITIMA |
The decision was announced with a great cheer, and to the surprise of many around me the “Yes” team from La Republica had won the day. This was not a surprise that they won because they had an excellent performance, but it was a surprise because the vast majority of people in the audience (and, I am told, almost all of the debaters) oppose such USA action against Iraq. (By the way, I like how Iraq in Spanish is spelled “Irak.”) There was wild celebration among the debaters and in the chamber, especially among the La Republica supporters in the audience. The La Maritima team seemed a bit disappointed (who would not be) but they crossed the chamber to congratulate the winners with hugs, handshakes, and the traditional polite cheek kisses that the Chileans seem to love to use between men and women. Then there was the announcement of the top speaker in the event, and a young man named Christian from La Maritima was named. Awards were presented and the event was officially over, with a series of photo opportunities taking place. The reporter from El Mercurio asked me to pose with the winners and the top speaker, something I was glad to do. I gave her my card so that my name would be spelled properly, and then other photographers asked me for my card. I gave them each one and posed as they suggested with the students. Then I was caught by surprise as three of the photographers then presented me with a bill, telling me that I had contracted with them for a picture to be sent to me for the sum of 10,000 Chilean pesos, or about US$15. I paid the first one and told the others no very politely.
As the event began to break up I realized that I had no plan for transportation to the post-debate banquet to be held at the Hyatt Hotel, an event Drina had told me to be sure to attend, and that I should look for a seat at her table at the banquet. I met up with Gonzalo Downey, who had been at WDI last summer as well, but was also the top speaker and champion at the Torneo Hispanoamericano de Debate held last May in Puerto Rico. He said he would be back and would give me a ride if I needed one, as he was also going to the banquet. As he departed for a moment Drina swept into view and told me she would give me a ride, which I accepted, hoping this would not inconvenience Gonzalo.
As we made our way to the parking garage we met up with one of the judges who expressed surprise at the decision. He wondered if there was a problem given the difference of opinion between the judges and the audience about the debate. I mentioned that in my experience the judges and the audience perceive of the debate quite differently, since the judges are far more active listeners and are also far less likely to let their personal opinions play a role in the decision. This seemed to comfort him a bit. We were soon on our way to the Hyatt, and Drina and a close friend of hers, the wife off a Senator, asked me about my feelings on the “language creates reality” concept. I shared with them the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the example of how Inuit perceive of snow (for which they have many more words than we do) but did note that I am not well informed on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Drina’s friend noted that the use of these techniques in her husband’s political campaign had been very successful.
We arrived at the Hyatt and found ourselves at a private entrance complete with valets to take care of the cars. I soon began to realize that this would be no ordinary debate banquet. We entered a large open space, nicely decorated, where the pre-banquet reception was being held. A wide variety of beverages were being served (including the famous wines of Chile) as well as canapés offered by smartly dressed staff. There seemed to be about 100 people there, although I did not do a formal count. While I never was able to snag a beverage, I was engaged in several conversations with people who were very interested in my work with debate as well as my impression of the event. I specifically enjoyed my conversation with August Coello of the Australis Group who said he would be helping to organize future events and would be attending both my seminars later in the week.
| DARK PICTURES OF THE MUSIC AND THE BANQUET AT THE HYATT |
All of a sudden a huge section of wall slid back and the dreamy music of Andes (pipes and drums) filled the room as the banquet itself was revealed to us. The room was lavishly decorated and the musicians were excellent. People began to enter the banquet space and search for their nametags at the various tables. I wandered aimless like a cloud until Drina collared me and led me to her table. I found myself between Drina and Julie Gianelloni Connor of the US embassy. She and her companion turned out to be fascinating conversationalists as we discussed everything from Woodward’s new book, to the last political campaign in America, to the challenges and benefits of being posted to various US embassies around the world and specifically in Chile. I shared my opinion about the potential of debate as a democracy promotion mechanism that had been used in various other countries, and she seemed very interested.
The meal itself was more than splendid, and after 30 years of debate banquets I would have to say that this was the best. Waiters were constantly filling wine glasses (in my case, filling my water glass), and the courses were quite excellent, including a light meat pastry, a lovely grilled steak covered with a white coating I could not identify, a tasty and unique soup, chocolate mousse, truffles, and other treats that escape me as a write this. Perhaps I did not pay as much attention to the food because the conversation was so stimulating.
At the conclusion of the banquet Gonzalo made a brief presentation of thanks to Drina for organizing the event, and also for sponsoring Chilean students and debaters in visits to the USA, both to Ohio State University and WDI in Vermont. She received a well deserved round of applause for her superb staging of the debate and the banquet. At the conclusion I had several conversations with “new friends” who gave me their cards and offered to host me on my next visit. “Add an extra week,” they would say, “and we will visit the south of Chile, especially the lake region.” I am excited to find time in my busy schedule to take them up on their kind offers. I also had a very moving talk with the Rector of Universidad La Maritima about debate, and he asked me to return to teach seminars at his university. A graduate of MIT he has great ambitions for his institution and I was very impressed by my conversation with him. He lavishly praised the work of Alvaro Ferrer and the many kind things he had said about his WDI experience. I realized that Drina would be staying until literally the last guest left, and it was already way past 1:00 AM. Chileans love to have a late dinner, but this one had seemed to go very late. I decided I could make it easier on her if I found another ride home. Alvaro offered to give me a ride home. This was a good chance to talk to Alvaro. I know he has changed his vocational plans from law to something that might involve additional work in the field of debate. He is very talented and charming, so of course I encouraged him. As we drove home he shared with me that his father had been a professional racecar driver, as he had been. He certainly drove with all the skill and assertiveness of a racecar driver, and I felt very safe.
He dropped me off at my hotel, Hotel Conde Ansurez, and after a farewell I entered. I asked for a 7:00 AM wake up call and went up to my room. It was after 2:00 AM and I knew I had a long day ahead of me on Tuesday working with high school students and teachers. Even though I was tired and knew I needed to sleep the events of the evening had been so stimulating that it was not until after 4:00 AM that I finally dozed off.