Demosthenian Literary Society
The Demosthenian Literary Society is a debating society at The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. It was founded in February 1803 by the first graduating class of the University's Franklin College. It is named after the Greek orator Demosthenes.
- 1 History
- 2 Demosthenian Hall
- 3 Campus involvement
- 4 Organization of the Society
- 5 Annual Programs and Traditions
- 6 Notable alumni
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
Augustin Clayton, James Jackson, and Williams Rutherford are recognized as the founding fathers of Demosthenian. Clayton became the first student to receive his diploma from Franklin College and went on to become a judge of wide respect and a U.S. Representative from Georgia, with Georgia's Clayton County being named in his honor. Rutherford and Jackson went on to become professors at Franklin College.
After 167 years of male-only membership, the first female members of the Society were inducted on March 4, 1970. President Sherrill Watkins presided over the initiation of Kathy Conrad, a freshman from Atlanta, and Bebe Herring, a junior from Athens. By the late 1970s, female members were heavily active in the Society and held numerous offices - even President. In 2008, the Society put forward its first all female Inter-Society Debate team. The four women swept the debate on warrantless wiretapping and FISA reform, winning the votes of all three judges and the alternate. Today, the Society has slightly more female than male members.
Demosthenian Hall was constructed by Dr. James Tinsley of Columbia County in 1824 at a cost to the Society of $4,000.[dead link] It is the fourth oldest building at the University of Georgia and was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1971. It has become the physical expression of a living tradition which binds generations of students. The Society’s minutes show that by September 5, 1829, the building’s $4,000 construction cost had been completely paid off. The construction was financed by the Society’s members, alumni, and friends.
Located on the University of Georgia’s historic north quadrangle, its facade in the formal Federal style forms a pleasing contrast to the later columned Greek revival structures which surround it. The front is graced with a Palladian window over a light doorway. The exterior walls are two feet thick and are of stucco over brick construction.
In 1997, Demosthenian Hall received a $200,000 facelift. Financed primarily by alumni donations and conducted by the architectural firm Serber and Barber, the construction work restored the ceiling medallion and the rest of the Upper Chamber to its original 1824 layout and color scheme. The original hard wood floors were uncovered and restored in the Lower Chamber.
The Upper Chamber
The Upper Chamber is the meeting room of the Society. The speaker’s lectern has been dated to the 1820′s and may have been built for the Hall. The simplicity of the carved mantels, window moldings, doors and deep paneled wainscoting emphasizes the drama of the ornate plasterwork ceiling medallion which is based on a template designed by Asher Benjamin. It is a medallion of holly leaves surrounded by swags of smaller leaves which are framed by delicate filigree. This ceiling is one of the most architecturally significant structures at the University of Georgia and is one of the few remaining examples of this form of decorative artwork.
The Lower Chamber
The Lower Chamber is the social space of the Society; members can often be found studying or enjoying a game of chess in between classes. It is divided into one main room flanked on the left by two smaller rooms - designated the President's Office and the Library. Containing mostly donated furniture constructed in the late 18th and early 19th century, the Society has endeavored to maintain the historic feel of the rooms. The rooms feature high wainscoting, four fireplaces, and plaster walls.
The Society has maintained an extensive library since its founding and currently owns over 1000 volumes. Its collection surpassed that of the University's main library for the majority of the 19th century. Upon the reopening of the University after the Civil War, the Society donated its books to the University to replace the library collection that had been burned. Demosthenian maintains extensive archives of past meeting minutes, Society business, and members. Bound editions of minutes are kept in the Demosthenian Hall Library and in the Georgia Reading Room located in the University's Main Library. In addition, the most recent minutes and some historical minutes from 1829 are available online. Many books currently in the Demosthenian Library contain personal inscriptions from members and alumni who donated them.
Over the past 200 plus years, the society has enjoyed a diverse group of students who have been proud to call themselves Demosthenians. In recent years, students from a wide array of majors spanning North and South Campus have come to the society to take part in the debate and intellectual discourse that the society is known for.
Members of the society are often heavily involved on campus, having a hand in over 60 campus organizations. These groups include but are not limited to every political affiliated organization on campus, The Red and Black, numerous service and honor societies, WUOG, CURO, Greek Fraternities and Sororities, fencing and are also affiliated with every major religious (UGA Atheists, Club Baptist Student Union, Pagan Student Association, Catholic Student Union) and ethnic group on campus.
In addition, the Society maintains relationships with other Literary and Debate societies across the United States, including the Philodemic Society at Georgetown University and the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Organization of the Society
The Demosthenian Literary Society was founded for the specific purpose of promoting the art of extemporizing, or extemporaneous speaking.  In this style, only the presenters know what topics are to be debated at the meeting, and all subsequent speeches are performed based on prior knowledge and without extensive preparation, though notes can be taken during other speeches. During their speeches, the speakers are also potentially subject to questions, preferably of a non-rambling nature. Speeches are generally limited to five minutes, and hand signals are provided to the speaker when he/she has three minutes, two minutes, one minute, thirty seconds, and fifteen seconds left.
Elections of the Demosthenian Literary Society take place during the penultimate meeting of each semester. Officer nominations take place during the two meetings immediately prior to elections. While guests may remain in the upper chamber for candidates' speeches, member debate and voting of officer candidates is confidential. For this reason, election day is the only meeting of the semester that guests are discouraged from attending.
Members of the Demosthenian Literary Society are awarded Speaker's Points for outstanding service to the society and participation in related activities. Services and activities worthy of Speaker's Points include: presenting resolutions before the Society, taking part in special programs, and serving as an officer or on a committee. Points are awarded by the President, the Judicial Council, and Committee heads. Accumulation of points is necessary to hold certain officer positions in the society and to obtain a Speaker's Key.
Members of the Society, upon receiving enough speakers points or being in the society for a certain amount of time, are eligible to run for officer positions. The Society has 12 officers. They are President, Vice President, Secretary, Chief Justice, two Associate Justices, Treasurer, Hall Administrator, Historian, Sergeant-at-Arms, Librarian and Custodian. The offices of Treasurer, Hall Administrator and Historian are all yearlong positions elected every Spring while the others are elected semesterly.
The Society has a faculty adviser who serves as a liaison between the University of Georgia and the Society. Notable faculty advisers who contributed greatly to Demosthenian include Albert B Saye and Cal Logue. The current adviser is John Knox, meteorologist and Associate Professor of Geography. Preceding Dr. Knox, Dr. John Murphy and Dr. Daniel Kapust served as the Society's adviser until 2008 and 2011 respectively.
The Society has committees dedicated to Public Relations, Programs, Alumni Relations, Digital Media, Finance and Hall Preservation. The Alumni Relations committee is responsible for the yearly All Night Meeting and is thus a year-long committee, while the other committees are appointed each semester. The Programs committee organizes speaker workshops, the Society's Relay for Life team, and several social events throughout each semester. The only requirement of serving on a committee is membership in the society. The Vice President serves over all the committees and appoints the Chair of each committee at the beginning of every semester unless otherwise specified in the Demosthenian constitution.
Annual Programs and Traditions
As one of the oldest student organizations in the nation, the Society has established a number of traditions and annual events throughout the course of its 200+ year history.
For service to the Society, members are awarded speaker's points. After accumulating 32 such points, members have the honor of being awarded a Speaker's Key. The Speaker's Key is a gold lapel pin that shows a member's devotion to the society. After a decade long hiatus, speaker's keys returned to the Society in late 2007. The new Speaker's Keys were first awarded at the annual All Night Meeting on February 16, 2008.
The All Night Meeting
On the Saturday that falls closest to February 19, the anniversary of its founding, the Demosthenian Literary Society hosts the All Night Meeting. The All Night Meeting lasts for twelve hours, beginning at 7 pm on Saturday evening and ending at 7 am on Sunday morning. Dinner is served at 7 pm and the meeting opens with guest keynote speakers. The meeting then continues with debate among current members, guests, and alumni of the Society throughout the night and into the morning. Those members who are present until the end of the meeting are awarded a Speaker's Point.
The Hat Debate
An annual tradition dating to the fall of 1995, members and guests are called up one by one to pull a random resolution out of a hat and then immediately give a presenting speech in the affirmative. Participants are given five minutes to make a case for the resolution and must present the resolution they pull from the hat. These resolutions are often of a humorous nature, and the Hat Debate tradition is a fun but rigorous exercise in extemporaneous speaking.
Because the Society traditionally participates in impromptu debate, once a year a meeting is dedicated to original orations and famous or not-so-famous declamations. The meeting takes place in two parts: Orations and Declamations. The events are considered a competition with the winner of each event winning a speaker's point. The competition is judged by the members of the Judicial Council. The competition normally takes place in early April.
Each spring the Demosthenian Literary Society holds a debate with their rival literary society at the University of Georgia. Generally, the debate is held in the Hatton-Lovejoy courtroom at the Law School on North Campus. The judges are usually professors from the University of Georgia and are selected by having their names drawn from a hat (using a negotiated list approved by both societies).
(Be it Resolved:)
|2013||The United States is obligated to interfere in the domestic affairs of other nations when human rights are violated as defined by the International Committee of the Red Cross.||Demosthenian
|2012||The United States should privatize its national ocean waters.||Demosthenian
|2011||Global nuclear disarmament would be detrimental to U.S. national security.||Demosthenian
|2010||The management of natural resources by foreign corporations in lesser developed countries is beneficial to those countries.||Phi Kappa
|2009||Supreme Court justices should be chosen by popular election||Demosthenian
|2008||In the interest of national security, the United States ought to permit warrantless surveillance for communications going into or out of the country.||Demosthenian
|Debate held in the Miller Learning Center|
|2007||Term limits for Congress. (Exact wording not available)||Phi Kappa
|Debate held at the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse|
|2006||The United States should increase significantly its use of nuclear power for the purpose of generating energy.||Phi Kappa
|2005||The United States should ratify the statute of the International Criminal Court.||Phi Kappa
|2004||Limitations based on country of origin are an ethical means to restrict immigration into the United States.||Phi Kappa
|2003||A direct democracy is better than a representative democracy.||Demosthenian
|2002||The teaching of a consensus history is necessary in preserving American identity.||Demosthenian
|2001||A citizen's right to vote does not carry with it the duty to vote.||Demosthenian
|2000||Artistic achievement, not multicultural representation, should guide the formation of the American Literary Canon.||Demosthenian
|1999||America was safer during the Cold War.||Phi Kappa
|1998||–||–||Debate not held due to break in relationship between societies|
|1996||When in conflict, the rights of the individual outweigh the interests of the community.||(Unavailable)|||
|1994||(Proposed by Demosthenian) Manned space flight is counter to the scientific interests of the United States.||N/A||Debate was not held. Phi Kappa rejected the official debate challenge due to a dispute over the topic.|
|1992||Which has been more beneficial to mankind, science or religion?||Demosthenian
|1991||The United States is entering a decline, instead of a Renaissance. (paraphrased, exact wording unavailable)||Demosthenian
|First modern intersociety debate following the refounding of Phi Kappa|
- William Yates Atkinson, former Governor of Georgia
- John Barrow, U.S. Congressman
- Pope Barrow, U.S. Senator
- Robert Benham, first African-American Chief Justice, Georgia Supreme Court
- William Tapley Bennett Jr., diplomat
- D. W. Brooks, founder of Gold Kist
- John A. Campbell, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
- William Ragsdale Cannon, United Methodist bishop
- Augustin Clayton, Statesman, Judge, U.S. Congressman from Georgia
- Hugh M. Dorsey, Governor of Georgia
- Joel Furr, First person to refer to junk e-mail as "spam"
- Phil Kent, political consultant
- Jack Kingston, U.S. Congressman
- Crawford Long, Physician
- Count Emilio Pucci, fashion designer
- Ralph Reed, political consultant
- Charles Henry Smith, better known as writer Bill Arp
- Herman E. Talmadge, U.S. Senator and former Governor of Georgia
- Robert Toombs, U.S. and Confederate statesman
- Arthur Hinds, member of the Celtic/Pagan band Emerald Rose
- Beth Shapiro, Rhodes Scholar and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant"
Other Historic American Debate Societies
- The Philolexian Society of Columbia University
- The Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania
- The American Whig-Cliosophic Society of Princeton University
- The Philodemic Society of Georgetown University
- The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society of the University of Virginia
- The Union-Philanthropic (Literary) Society of Hampden-Sydney College
- The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- The Euphradian Society of the University of South Carolina
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