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8th Annual Matthew Harris Ornstein Summer Debate Institute

Words cannot express the excitement that took place at 410 8th St, NW during three weeks this summer when the 8th Annual Matthew Harris Ornstein Summer Debate Institute was held at BASIS Charter School. For our returning varsity students, the excitement was palpable with the return to in-person debate and they were treated to a talk from Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor on day one.

But after a week of varsity focused research camp, the excitement was palpable in the multi-purpose room at BASIS charter school when Norm Ornstein and Judy Harris officially kicked camp off. New this year staff and students returning for their third summer were given a 117 button to symbolize Matthew's favorite number. The students and staff were invited to wear the buttons throughout camp to show their willingness to be mentors to younger campers.

It wouldn't be camp without a celebration of Matthew's birthday. This year Jeni's ice cream ( donated ice cream for an ice cream party that was enjoyed by everyone.

Participants in the institute were also lucky enough to receive a free subscription to the Washington Post ( for use in debate and school research. In a highly topical topic (the US security policy towards NATO, our students were treated to a star studded line-up of guest speakers. In addition to Jake Sullivan, they heard from the NATO Ambassador (Julianne Smith), former US Ambassador to NATO (Ivo Daalder), House Armed Services Staffer (John Warden) and many others.

New this year, students, staff and families spent a Saturday at the amazing Planet Word ( museum. Our students enjoyed exclusive access to phenomenal exhibits and a class.

Of course, debate is a competitive active and this year our students didn't fail to impress. Across three divisions students argued about cryptocurrency, biofuels and democracy. The novice division took place at BASIS. The students were treated to donated burgers from Shake Shack ( for lunch. Over at Trinity College our varsity and JV division argued it out for the tournament champions.

The closing ceremony is always bittersweet. It is the celebration of all the kids accomplishments and its a lot of fun, but it's also the end of a summer of fun and the recognition that we will have to wait a whole year for camp again. This year's closing ceremony didn't disappoint. There was donated Harris Teeter ( cake for everyone. The ceremony was opened with a video greeting from our new Supreme Court Justice, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and then we heard about the awards.

In addition to the competitive awards we presented two special awards:

The Keoni Scott-Reid Award- Keoni was the first winner of the Matthew Harris Ornstein, a student who was touched by the institute and incredible instructor. The award went to Alexa Figueroa, a WUDL alum, and an incredible camp staff member.

The Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Award- Was presented to Liv Birnstad a debater from Capital City Charter School. Liv is a varsity debater and repeat debate camper.

For more information about debate camp we encourage you to read the recap from our partner the Washington Urban Debate League

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Newsweek Articles about Debate Camp

You can find the two articles that Newsweek's Lauren Giella wrote about Debate Camp here: Debate Camp attracts some of the 'smartest people in DC.'


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