Should or shouldn’t President Donald Trump be impeached? The issue may have been resolved by the U.S. House and Senate, but for the 12 YU undergraduates who participated in the Langfan Family Undergraduate Constitutional Oratory Competition on Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the subject of impeachment was still very much front and center.
No stranger to controversy, the annual Langfan Competition has been challenging YU undergraduates since 2001 to argue the constitutionality of a host of disputable topics – from gerrymandering to the refusal to provide goods or services based on religious beliefs.
The competition tasks students with writing and presenting a short uninterrupted speech analyzing a contentious constitutional issue. Contestants are instructed to abandon their own political views and biases and develop an argument based on solid legal research. Presentations are evaluated by a three-judge panel, based on clarity of argument, cohesive use of research material and evidence, effective rebuttal of anticipated counter-arguments and overall delivery and style of speech.
Langfan’s spirited tradition of recognizing student excellence in public speaking and rhetoric continued this year when eager and well-prepared students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and the Sy Syms School of Business made their individual cases for or against the impeachment of President Trump in Cardozo’s Moot Court Room.
In preparation, they were encouraged by competition organizers “to study the impeachment trials of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton and the impeachment process of Richard Nixon, with particular attention to the nature of the charges leveled against each one and how they were ultimately resolved.” The presiding judges were Joanna Phua, an adjunct professor at Stern College’s Department of Political Science; Avi Goldenberg ’98YC, general counsel of C+A Global; and Daniel Danesh ’13YC ,’16C, an associate in GS Accelerate at Goldman Sachs.
At the conclusion of each five-minute argument, the judges individually offered contestants detailed critiques of their speeches, with an eye toward helping them hone their rhetorical and analytical abilities. Capturing first place were Jonah Loskove ’22SB and Shayna Doretsky ’20S; Rachel Rosenberg ’20S placed second and Israel Fruchter ’22YC ranked third.
Loskove, a first-time participant currently majoring in finance at Sy Syms, was surprised by the outcome. “I wasn’t expecting to come in first. Everyone who participated did a really great job, and I had the unique opportunity to build on my public speaking skills.” Fruchter shared Loskove’s excitement and went on to note that the for someone like him who’s considering a legal career, the Langfan Competition was a “perfect forum to gain real-world lawyer skills.”
The Langfan Competition is also held at Cornell Law School and the University of Chicago Law School and is funded by William Langfan, a longtime supporter of Yeshiva University who champions the importance of rhetoric and public speaking skills for college undergraduates.