The Chicago Debate League’s Premier Sponsor, the Allstate Corporation, has produced “Debate Changes Lives,” a powerful new video on the CDL to convey our message of empowerment and achievement. The film features the stories of three students from Chicago who are attending college on full scholarships due to their experience in the Chicago Debate League. The video enables us to share succinctly and tangibly our story with the Chicago business community, the media and the rest of our supporters.

The video, filmed this season, features Lucy Hernandez (above) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an alum of Thomas Kelly High School; Brandon McNamara (below) of Northwestern University, an alum of Harlan Community Academy; and Misael Gonzalez of Trinity University, an alum of Whitney Young High School.

Production of “Debate Changes Lives” was led at Allstate by Assistant Vice President and CDC Board Member Ben Tarver and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michele Coleman Mays (below), who appears in the video and discusses how debate offers students the skills and courage to speak up for themselves and succeed as professionals. She shares her belief that Allstate can be a “Pied Piper” in the Chicago business community, bringing attention to success stories made possible by corporations and other private supporters becoming involved in the Chicago Debate League.

“Debate Changes Lives” brings viewers and potential corporate donors into the experiences of students for whom the doors to higher education have been opened and for whom accomplishment in debate has translated to personal confidence and achievement in college.

Student Experiences

Lucy Hernandez describes how participating on the debate team allowed her to dream big and gain self-esteem as she realized for the first time that she was gifted in the skills that would make her succeed in life and at the University of Wisconsin through her experience in debate.

Lucy says, “What I enjoyed about the video was that it showcased what the Chicago Debate League has provided me, as well as my peers: wonderful opportunities. It’s great that someone is able to showcase the wonderful talent the Chicago Debate League has. Making the video was a great way for me to reflect about my experience and advocate why it is important to continue to fund a wonderful cause.”

Brandon McNamara describes how taking part in debate in high school helped him realize he could compete successfully in the classroom with students from the most elite, privileged high schools in the nation and made him aware that he could accomplish anything he worked for, starting with a full ride at Northwestern.

Misael Gonzalez discusses his experience as the 2010 National Forensic League and Chase Urban Debate National Champion, the opportunity to meet President Obama after being invited to the White House, and his ability to continue his debate career on a debate scholarship at Trinity University in San Antonio.

New Corporate Outreach Initiative

Allstate’s Ben Tarver says, “We were excited to work with the CDC to develop the Allstate ‘Debate Changes Lives’ video in order to share our enthusiasm for urban debate in Chicago and use our experience as Premier Sponsor of the Chicago Debate League to reach other leading corporations in our city with a message that deserves to be heard. Our students are accomplishing amazing things and more of them will have that opportunity with corporate investment in this unique, competitive academic program that creates future business and community leaders.”

CDC Executive Director Les Lynn explains the impact of Allstate lending its influential voice to the Chicago Debate League’s advocacy efforts: “This is another very generous gift from Allstate to the Chicago Debate League. It’s the most professional advocacy tool that the CDL has had in its 14 year history. The Chicago Debate Commission is about to show it to all the corporate and law firm partnership prospects we can. Our students tell a very compelling story, and the video packages it very smartly.”

Dick Sullivan, a retired partner at Accenture and Chairman of the Chicago Debate Commission, explains the goal behind the “Debate Changes Lives” video: “Debate transforms lives, generating the inspiration and the ambition, as well as the skills, for each student to become a thriving adult and productive force in the community. This video is a central message directly from recent debaters who are receiving the benefits to those in the community who did not personally experience debating and its transforming power for themselves.”