Speech & Debate

Speech and debate is about so much more than winning arguments. Participation in DA's speech and debate program is a journey into learning about current events, global politics, argumentation, research skills, thinking on one's feet and the ability to stand up in a room full of people and speak with confidence. 

Program Successes

Since 2007, DA has had 10 teams finish in the top 10 and five teams place in the top three at the National Speech and Debate Association national tournament — the largest academic competition in the world. In recent years, DA speakers and debaters have won some of the largest tournaments in the country, including Harvard, the University of Florida, the Glenbrooks, George Mason and Wake Forest.

2019 Speech and Debate

"Speech and debate defined my DA experience. Not only did it give me the skills and confidence to speak up on issues that I care about, both in and out of the classroom, but it also introduced me to a community of students and coaches from across the country who are some of my closest friends and greatest role models to this day."

Eilene Yang '16

Team Details

The DA speech and debate team typically comprises more than 60 students — including both students who choose to compete locally in North Carolina tournaments, as well as students who compete nationally as part of the travel team.

Local Events

The team holds regular practices throughout the week for each event, but students often come to additional practices as they see fit. Students who wish to compete locally aren't required to attend a minimum number of practices, but of course, the more often students practice, the faster they progress. When they're ready, team members compete in speech and debate tournaments throughout North Carolina, testing their skills against debaters from other schools.

National Events

Varsity-level competitors have the opportunity to travel to national competitions, typically on university campuses. To join the national travel team, there are more stringent requirements — but the advantages of joining the travel squad are many, including travel to wonderful college campuses and cities around the country.


A group of female and male students posing in two lines while holding six trophies of varying size.

Durham Academy had an amazing 2023 Grand National Tournament last weekend. 12 Cavaliers traveled to Louisville, Kentucky to secure the second National Championship. Robert Liu '24 was named the Champion of Lincoln-Douglas Debate after defeating Harrison High School (NY). Congratulations to our alum Jacob Palmer '20 for working closely with students competing in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate division. 

Durham Academy Debate Team celebrating their win at the JW Patterson Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky

Durham Academy Speech & Debate does it again. The team finished strong in the 2023 JW Patterson Tournament of Champions last weekend. From @dadebate: “Michael and Alex were named the Champions of Public Forum Debate, Lulu presided in the Final Round of Congress, Ben and Veer were PF Semifinalists, Max was an OO Quarterfinalist, and Teddy and Ani were PF Octafinalists. Durham Academy was recognized with the William Woods Tate Team Excellence Award for Overall Performance.”