Alum Profile: Mandela Okere – “unstoppable wherever I go”

Mandela Okere, former stand-out Lane Tech debater and current Director of Operations for the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues

I’ve been involved in debate for 9 years, and the one thing that I’ll always value about being on the debate team and “urban debate” is the open battlefield of self expression and thought it allows. The policy forum gives access to both critical and calculative thought like no other forum. Poetry, Topicality, Politics or Biopolitics, a team can express it all because this is what they think will win rounds, or because they want to get their voices heard and their minds shaped. That’s why I’m convinced that policy debate is one of the best after-school programs for high school students.

Debate provided me with a host of intangible skills such as the desire for leadership and confidence in the work that I put in. I used that confidence in my arguments outside the round, and I tried to pass along that aspect while coaching at Lane Tech.

I’d have to say that I really love debate. Not just for the college readiness and reading skills, not for the fast track to being involved in government, but because of the set of skills it gives and the open forum for self expression that can make any debater unstoppable wherever they go. My best experiences were from the personal competition against other schools, which is a credit to the talent and diversity of the students the CDL reaches.

Debate is a great place for every type of person willing to push themselves to work hard and win. For the quiet methodical strategist, for those concerned with their rank and looking good for college, or to just prove they are better than everyone else, for those who want an intellectual arena in which to socialize, and for those who want to “rethink the way we experience reality” one round at a time by playing rap by Common, debate accommodates it all.

Editor’s Note: Mandela, a Chicago native, debated for Lane Tech College Prep where he was named the CDL’s Most Valuable Debater in 2004. He graduated from DePaul University with a degree in Business Management and a minor in Political Philosophy. In 2008, he coached the Chase Urban Debate National Champions. Mandela previously worked for the City of Chicago in their Department of Human Resources and now works for the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues as their Director of Operations.