Since deciding to study at the University of Toronto, I always wanted to join the Debating Club at Hart House. I knew Hart House debaters were some of the best in the country, and I wanted to challenge myself within their ranks.
As time went on, I also realized that through the Debates Committee, Hart House also offered me a great opportunity to engage in a wider campus dialogue by working with the committee to organize guest speakers, direct debating tournaments, conduct outreach to local elementary/high schools, and so forth. The Club and Committee have been a meaningful way for me to grow as a whole person: learning about current sociopolitical issues, improving my public speaking and argumentation skills, and also learning about the value of creating meaningful opportunities for my fellow students.
Hart House is a special place. The two things that make it stand out in my mind are the level of activity and the degree of student involvement in making that activity happen. There is always something happening at Hart House. Generally, when I come in on a Tuesday evening for a Debating Club meeting, I’m greeted by piano music drifting down the main hallway—itself decorated by a new student art exhibit—and I usually walk by at least one room filled with people listening to a guest speaker on my way to my own meeting. That level of energy and activity alone makes Hart House unique—but just as important is the fact that nearly all of this activity is student-driven.
Hart House’s staff advisors are essential to guide and support the development of student plans, but it’s the studentswho take ownership for the projects, who bring in the guest speakers and who organize the concerts and decorate the hallways. To me, Hart House is a place where students can uncover those parts of themselves that can only grow outside of the classroom.
An experience Hart House gave me that I’ll never forget was meeting one of my literary idols, Saul Williams. One day, I was busy doing some accounting work for the Debates Committee at Hart House, and I started talking to one of the staff members working beside me. Eventually, he mentioned that he was organizing a lunch with Saul Williams. Saul is one of my modern literary icons—his slam poetry, if you’ve never read it, is inspired. So, I mentioned this to the staff advisor, and he came back a half hour later and asked me if I wanted to join them for lunch. I will never forget that lunch—and how I read Saul Williams a poem that I wrote directly inspired by him—and how Hart House gave me that chance.
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Donor support of the Hart House Debating Club and Debates Committee has helped me to grow as an individual and a member of the university community, giving me the opportunity to compete at universities from McGill to Yale, exploring controversial and intellectually-stimulating topics while forging meaningful friendships with my fellow Hart House teammates.