Members of the GW College Democrats and College Republicans broke with party lines in a parliamentary debate over criticism of the president during times of crises Tuesday night in the Marvin Center.
In the debate, co-sponsored by the Parliamentary Debate Society and the Program Board, each team consisted of one CD and CR, forcing one member of each team to cross party lines. Members of “the government” defended freedom to speak out against the president even in times of war – a typically Democratic position. Members of “the opposition” said the president should not be subject to criticism in times when public support is needed – a belief traditionally held by Republicans.
Bryan O’Keefe, a sophomore CR voicing support for the president, spoke as the prime minister on the government side.
“If you don’t like the job they are doing, you should be able to say something about it,” O’Keefe said. “Dissent is healthy for democracy.”
CD and junior David Kay spoke for the opposition team.
“Don’t let go of freedom,” Kay said. “But why criticize? It only undermines the support.”
CD and junior Ayana Morali defended Constitutional rights for the government team.
“It is conducive to democracy,” she said. “Especially in the time of war, we need to enforce democracy and the First Amendment.”
CR and senior Brian Pasquarelli concluded the first part of the debate for the opposition.
“We must stand unified behind our president,” he said.
Pasquarelli pointed to the “Greatest Generation” and World War II as examples.
“We need one voice to come together to denounce the evil doers. We have been attacked. We must stand up together, point our finger and tell them we will not take this,” he said.
After all members of the teams had spoken, the audience voiced their opinions.
Sophomore Denise Shroeder, a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat, strongly advocated standing behind the president.
“It is not always the best to criticize the president during these times,” Shroeder said. “We need to stand together or people will see us as weak.”
O’Keefe finished by comparing freedom of speech in the United States to other countries. He spoke about the Middle East, where he said people are killed for speaking against the government. He said if the terrorists had had the freedom to speak out, there could have been a different outcome.