Posted by Sean Flynt on 2009-06-18

Approximately 5,500 student debaters from all 50 U.S. states and some foreign countries converged on Birmingham this week for "Stars Fell on Alabama," the National Forensics League Speech and Debate Tournament 2009. Samford--a tournament sponsor--hosted the opening ceremony Sunday, June 14.

The ceremony in Samford's Leslie Stephen Wright Fine Arts Center began with a video presentation introducing visitors to Alabama's contributions to politics, sports, popular culture and the arts, from Rosa Parks to Condoleezza Rice, To Kill A Mockingbird to Forrest Gump, Hank Aaron to Bo Jackson.

Welcoming speakers included local television journalist Anna Donaldson, Samford Communication Studies professor Ryan Galloway and Samford president Andrew Westmoreland.

Westmoreland recalled learning how the Moken people of coastal Thailand escaped the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. He said the Moken had a long tradition of alertness to the subtle environmental changes that precede such events. They listened to the instruction of older generations and didn't hesitate to act at the decisive moment. He encouraged the debaters to serve the world by taking the lesson to heart--remembering, listening and acting decisively. "They don't call it the wisdom of the ages for nothing," he said.

Tournament events are scheduled at Birmingham Sheraton Hotel, Oak Mountain High School, Spain Park High School and Vestavia Hills high school. The tournament will end Friday, June 19.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.