• Erik Fogel

This Day in Debate History (4/1/20). Happy Birthday to Great Debater, Samuel Alioto Jr.

Today we honor the birthday of Great Debater, Samuel Alioto, Jr. Alito was on both his high school’s and college’s debate team and was the second Italian American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. According to Alito on the benefits of debate:


“I debated in both high school and college, and consider my participation in debate to be one of the most important parts of my education. In high school, I competed with my sister Rosemary in what is now called policy debate, which helped me develop intense research and teamwork skills that have served me well throughout my life and legal career. In college, I participated a more freestyle form of debate. From this style, I learned the art of extemporaneous analysis and persuasive public speaking, which also have served me well. I commend forensics as part of a well-balanced series of student activities. Past and present Justices of the Supreme Court are and were former debaters, and this year all four of my law clerks at some point participated in speech and debate. But the skills developed through competitive debate are not limited to helping a legal career: top-notch research skills, quick analytical thinking, and strong public speaking are tools needed to be successful in almost any profession.”


Samuel Alioto Jr. born on April 1, 1950 in New Jersey. He was the son of Italian immigrants. He joined the debate team in high school and later in college. He graduated in 1972 and wrote in his yearbook that he hoped to “eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court.” He did! After college he attended Yale Law School and was editor of the Yale Law Journal. After law school he served as Assistant to the US Solicitor General and argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court. He also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General, United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and Adjunct Professor at Seton Hall University Law School.


In 1990 he was nominated and received unanimous consent in the US Senate to be a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In 2004 he became the 110th Justice, and second Italian American on the Supreme Court of the United States.


Public Speaking Tips from Justice Samuel Alito:

Check out his video below. A speech before the National Constitution Center.


- Humor: He begins his introduction with a short humorous story. This is the purpose of introductions to "hook" the audience in.


- Connect to Your Audience. The location is the National Constitution Center and the crowd is there for this purpose. So he begins his speak with a humorous story about his own Pocket Constitution.


- Introduction: The introduction is the most powerful part of your speech. He uses a personal story and humor to engage the audience.


- Storytelling: he uses several personal stories throughout the speech. This engages the audience more because they learn about the speaker.


- Eye Contact. While he does use notes, he rarely breaks eye contact with the audience.


- Preview and Organization. Also in his introduction he "previews" the main points of his speech. Throughout his speech he also organizes various points "First," Second", "Third"


- Thanking People. He often cites President George W. Bush, his accomplishments, personal history. President Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court and was the United States President.


- Know Your Subject Area. As a legal scholar, Law School Professor, Lawyer and Top Judge, he clearly knows his subject matter for this speech. So the audience can learn something and definitely respects his experience and expertise.


- Quotations - Use quotations. He cites a quotation during his conclusion.


- Conclusion. Similar to your Introduction, make sure you have an exciting and engaging introduction. During his conclusion he provides a take away to the audience of the importance of the Bill of Rights and uses a quotation from top jurist, Learned Hand.



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