Christopher Sung

There could only be one.

On Tuesday, 45 first-year students engaged in a long and heated debate on the topic, “Resolved: Give us Bread, and Give us Roses.” The winner’s prize — $300 and a lifetime membership in the Yale Political Union.

The turnout and audience engagement at this year’s First-Year Prize Debate — an annual debate exclusively for first years — matched the stakes. From the evening’s first speech, onlookers, sitting in a packed Sudler Hall, hissed and pounded their chairs loudly to express their feelings for each speech. Chief Whip of the Federalist Party Canaan Harris ’20 said he was delighted with how this year’s debate unfolded.

“I was honestly excited by the turnout of Tuesday’s debate,” Harris said. “The [first years] and members of the audience were extremely passionate throughout the entirety of the evening.”

YPU President Brian Cashin ’19 told the News that he intentionally left the debate topic vague in order to allow first years flexibility in creating their speeches. In one of the night’s more memorable speeches, Curtis Colvett ’21, who is petitioning the Conservative Party, spoke about the ideological divide between capitalism and socialism.

His speech elicited cheers from the union’s conservatives and hisses from its liberals.

“Those who want to protect the notion of rugged individualism must be weary of condoning any concept of the welfare state,” Colvett said.

Joseph Brownsberger ’21, a member of the Federalist Party, expounded on Colvett’s notion of entitlement in another stirring speech. Brownsberger harped on the importance of establishing a meritocracy in the United States and said handouts are meaningless without hard work.

The winner of the debate, Ryley Constable ’21, is petitioning the Tory Party, which also falls on the conservative side of the political spectrum. Like many other petitioners of conservative-leaning parties on the right, Constable spoke about the dangers of the welfare state.

But the stirring speeches were not just limited to the union’s Coalition of the Right.

A petitioner to the Liberal Party, Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi ’21, delivered a speech advocating for women’s rights that elicited hoots of approval from the left-leaning side of the auditorium.

“Give us our bread, but just giving us better wages won’t do,” Lacoste-Azizi said. “Give us our roses, too! Let us live with dignity … Give us maternity leave!”

While the evening was largely marked by contentious arguments, it was also punctuated by humorous moments.

In the middle of her speech, petitioner to the Party of the Left Naomi D’Arbell ’21 argued that the children’s cartoon show Spongebob Squarepants was indicative of America’s “cultural epidemic,” drawing laughter from the union’s audience.

The YPU’s next debate, which will take place Oct. 30, will be on LGBTQ rights.

Christopher Sung |