Do we believe the freedom of speech has it’s limits? – Debate March 21st

Dear Fellows of the one and only Zuriberg Toastmasters Club, dear Guests and Friends

With much regret yours truly was not able to attend the evening of March 21st and what – so the unanimous reports – must have been a truly accomplished and successful debate evening. Kevin von Niederhäusern had taken on the responsibility of organizing the evening and I have asked him to provide you with a recount of the evening’s events. Here his summary:


Another great evening at Toastmasters Zuriberg! This time, we left the art of preparing and delivering accomplished speeches for a moment to tackle another tenet of public speaking: debates! Organized and brought to life by Kevin as Chairman, the debate laid out the proposition of-  and the opposition to the motion: “This house believes that freedom of speech has its limits”.

The two teams (proposition: Thomas & Santhiago; opposition: Ben & Gabriel) were well prepared for an engaged debate. They dived into extended research beforehand and defended their positionys energetically. The proposition brought many arguments supporting that a lack of constraints on speech leads to spread of fake news and hate speeches, jeopardizing lives and public health. They challenged the opposition with facts, statistics and well established research on how freedom of speech is monitored and categorized as potentially manipulative.

The opposition focused their arguments on the negative impact on minorities when freedom of speech is restrained. They raised the question of who decides what is worth being said and what may lead to unwanted situations. For example, citizens in dictatorships do not get the opportunity to have their voices heard. Freedom of speech allowed in the past years – in many countries – homosexuals to receive the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. In their view, the given examples show that freedom of speech should be protected at any cost .

As in any good debate, all speakers managed to be tough on the issue while soft on the people – they fully managed to make the audience think while respecting the perspectives of their opponents. But of course, there was only room for a single winning team – even though the vote ended as a tie, the opposition managed to convert more voters at the end of the debate (proposition to opposition 11 vs 4 at the opening, 8 vs 8 at the close).

Congrats to the winners of the debate Gabriel and Ben and honorable mentions to Santhiago and Thomas for their great arguments.After dinner, Luca went far and beyond the classic evaluation role by giving tactical advice inspired by the book of Arthur Schopenhauer “the art of always being right”. 

In her general evaluation, Anna confirmed that debates have their place at Toastmasters and that any good speaker needs to develop these skills. However, in order to involve more members in participating during the evening, she proposed to switch to the shorter debate format in the future, which would allow two debates in a single meeting.

The final words from the guests and the audience confirmed the general and high interest in debates and everybody lauded the professionalism in the organization from the Zuriberg Committee. Last but not least, thanks to the timer (Emilio) and the vote and ballot counters (Samira and Kostas) for their support.

The theme of the upcoming meeting on March 28th is SPRING – fully in synch with the longingly awaited and happily welcomed new season. It will be a classic meeting, back to the roots with no less than 5 prepared speeches scheduled.

Come and join us – practicing and celebrating the art of public speaking!

Kind reagards
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Roland Straub

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