Debating: Télécom Paris’ team in final!


Télécom Paris’ debating team (from left): Manuela Ayo, Zachary Oberg (coach), Pedro Beltran Kikuti, Sacha Khosrowshahi, Keshav Das, Hadrien Bernard, Najib Abi Fadel, Salim Abdou Daoura — Photograph Comète

After winning both of their pool debates*, as well as their quarterfinal debate**, and then their semifinal debate***, the debate team for Télécom Paris competed in the Final debate of the 2024 French Debating Association (FDA) tournament!

On Monday the 8th of April, 2024, Télécom Paris once again had the honor to debate in the Hotel de Lassay at the Assemblée Nationale, for the first time since 2018! Prior to this, under the expert coaching of the legendary Mandy Weyer-Brown, Télécom reached the final in 2011 and 2005 winning both times!

The motion of this year’s final was “THBT liberty is responsibility”. ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure) proposed the motion and Télécom Paris opposed. It was a thoroughly entertaining debate, overheard described as one of the best final debates in recent FDA history, with captivating speakers, clever arguments, engaging exchanges, and inventive teamlines (including ENS as the Daltons from Lucky Luke, and Télécom as the escaping zoo animals from the film Madagascar). The roughly 300 people in the audience (about a third from ENS, a third from Télécom, and a third from other schools in the tournament) participated in the fun, reacting to the speeches by shouting the traditional “Hear! HEAR!” or “SHAAAAME!”

In the end, the jury****, after deliberating for nearly an hour, finally declared ENS the winner of this year’s tournament.

However, as is tradition, at the end of the debate, the audience is asked to shout “AYE!” if they agree with the motion, or “NAY!” if they reject the motion, and it was more than clear by the deafening shouts of “NAY”, that the audience was more persuaded by the team from Télécom Paris.

The entire team from Télécom Paris, Salim Abdou Daoura, Najib Abi Fadel, Manuela Ayo, Pedro Beltran Kikuti, Hadrien Bernard, Keshav Das, Sacha Khosrowshahi all received silver medals, and Salim was voted moreover best speaker of the evening!

Photographs Quentin Roussel, Comète, students’ association of Télécom Paris

I couldn’t be more proud of what my team has accomplished! They have made so much progress over the course of a few short months! When I recruited the team in January, they were all very good speakers, but some of them had never debated before in this type of context, so they had to learn the mechanics as they went along. Naturally they made some mistakes along the way, but they really took on the feedback that they received from the juries at each debate, and kept getting better and better. At a few points during the tournament I thought we might be eliminated, but I am glad that we were able to squeak by in some of those early debates so that we could all see what the team would eventually become! Their performance on Monday night was absolutely phenomenal! It is always nice to win, but ultimately whether we win or lose is not that important. They showed everyone at the Assemblée Nationale what Télécom is capable of, and for that they can all be extremely proud!
Zachary Oberg, Télécom Paris debate coach, and Vice President of the FDA.


* “THBT (This House Believes That…) AI does it better” against EHESS on the 15th of February, and “THBT in the Olympics” against Ponts on the 4th of March.

** “THBT Greed is good” against SupMeca on the 13th of March.

*** “THBT It’s a rich man’s world” against Paris 1 Sorbonne on the 25th of March, held in the Mairie de Paris Centre.

THBT posters Michel Desnoues, Télécom Paris

**** Jury led by His Excellency Niall Burgess, Ambassador of Ireland, and Madame Ariane Trichon, conseillère diplomatique à l’Assemblée Nationale; and which included Monsieur Nicolas Guillaume, Conseiller Politique chargé de la question de l’approvisionnement en métaux et minerais stratégiques au sein du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères; Madame Chantal Barry, Responsable des publications internationales pour la recherche au CEVIPOF (Sciences Po Paris); Madame Charlotte Matthews, Avocate & lauréate of the FDA debate tournament in 2015; and Monsieur Francesco Donini Ferretti, Secretary General of the FDA from 2015 to 2018.