November 24, 2020
The Schuman Challenge is an annual debating contest hosted by the European Union Delegation to the USA. The event is named after the statesman and founding father of the European Union, Robert Schuman. Typically hosted in Washington D.C., the 2020 Challenge was held virtually for the safety of the judges and participants.
During this three-day competition (from October 28 through October 30), teams of three to four undergraduate students represent universities from around the nation to debate transatlantic policy in front of an audience of foreign affairs experts, including DC policymakers and European Union delegates.
Representing UW-Madison this year were Aleksander Cwalina, a junior majoring in Political Science and Journalism; Anitha Quintin, a senior majoring in Political Science, International Studies, and Mathematics; Michael Sauer, a senior majoring in Political Science and Economics; and Zach Dyar, a freshman majoring in Economics. The team was led by University of Wisconsin–Madison Speech and Debate team coach A.J. Carver.
The UW-Madison team presented its argument for the 2020 theme, “How should the EU and the U.S respond to China’s alternative models of governance?” to a panel of judges that included Michael Curtis, Deputy-Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United States; Rachel Ellehuus, Deputy Director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Aili Ribulis, Deputy-Head of the Political, Security, and Development Section, Delegation of the European Union to the United States.
UW-Madison debater Aleksander Cwalina, said of his experience, “Although COVID presented unforeseeable challenges to the whole process, it was a blast. The Schuman Challenge was a unique opportunity to get some valuable first-hand experience in policy-making that one would not otherwise get in a course. The possible reward of presenting policy to ambassadors and heads of prominent think tanks raised the stakes, but in a way that made the process engaging and fun.”
29 teams representing 19 different states and DC competed in the 2020 debate. This is the first year a UW-Madison team has participated in the Schuman Challenge.
During the award ceremony (which was recorded live and is included at the bottom of this article) the judges recognized the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an honorable mention, which was announced by European Union Ambassador to the United States Stavros Lambrinidis. CNN National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto stressed the significance of participating in debate in his own life. “I was a debater in high school,” he told the students, “It made a huge difference in my life and there are skills, interests in my life that I still draw on today. These skills, this knowledge base, this ability to articulate them, crystallize your ideas, make a case, back that case up, that will serve you well wherever you go.”
To demonstrate the caliber of the competitors, European Union Ambassador to the United States Stavros Lambrinidis disclosed to the audience that his colleagues in attendance were taking notes on the arguments proposed in the debates to use as potential policy solutions.
Seeing so many talented, informed, and concerned young people participating in the challenge inspired CNN’s Jim Scotto to declare, “It gives me faith in the future of my country and the world.”