Debating for Democracy (D4D)™

Debating for Democracy (D4D)™ is designed to promote civic engagement and effective advocacy skills among a wide range of students. Through workshops, a national conference, and co-curricular programs on each campus, students acquire the tools and tactics they need to advance their issues and to get their messages across to elected officials, fellow students, community groups, and the media.

Current and past student participants have:

  • Developed a video on how to effectively lobby elected officials that includes interviews with Congressional staff
  • Organized local high school students to advocate on their own behalf for student-centered education reform
  • Conducted a lobbying day in Washington, D.C. against Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing)
  • Developed a local campaign in support of the DREAM ACT

The D4D program includes the Debating for Democracy National Conference. Student leaders from Periclean campuses across the country are joined by college presidents, faculty, and foundation, government, and community leaders to participate in a series of panels and workshops with leading experts on topics including: civic engagement, education, the environment, journalism, social entrepreneurship, and public policy. The National Conference features a Legislative Hearing in which teams of students from different schools compete for $5,000 in prize money that they can use to develop advocacy and educational campaigns around critical issues.    

Conference participants have included:

  • Carol Browner, Former Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Obama Administration & Former Administrator of the EPA, Clinton Administration
  • Jeffrey Clements, Author of "Corporations Are Not People"; General Counsel,
  • Ami Dar, Founder and Executive Director,
  • Keesha Gaskins, Senior Counsel, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice
  • Rajeev K. Goyal, author of The Springs of Namje: A Ten-Year Journey from the Villages of Nepal to the Halls of Congress
  • Jacob S. Hacker, author of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class
  • Arthur Levine, President, Woodrow Wilson Foundation
  • Michael S. McPherson, President, Spencer Foundation
  • Pedro Noguera, Professor of Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University

The D4D on the Road™ workshops, hosted at Periclean colleges and universities, provide training in leadership development, media strategy, coalition building, and developing an effective message. Using a carefully designed model, advocacy experts empower students, faculty, staff, and community members to advance their particular issue or cause. Since 2008, Project Pericles has trained more than 2,300 attendees at Periclean colleges and universities across the United States through these day-long workshops. More information about D4D on the Road workshops is provided at the bottom of the page. 


Additional Information on the Debating for Democracy National Conference:

The sixth D4D National Conference was hosted by Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts in New York City in March 2015. Student leaders and activists from our Periclean colleges and universities across the country attended.

Our thanks to Eugene M. Lang, whose vision inspired this conference and to the Eugene M. Lang Foundation for its ongoing support of Project Pericles. 

The conference featured two interactive workshops for our students, panel discussions, a Legislative Hearing, and time to network with fellow student activists from around the country (Agenda). We concluded with visits to five local non-profits, Community Voices Heard, Friends of the High Line, Harlem Grown, Inside Out/College and Community Fellowship, and Museum at Eldridge Street/A Landmark Synagogue Story.

The D4D Legislative Hearing is a highlight of the D4D National Conference. This unique event provides students a forum to articulate their solutions to some of today's most important public policy issues. At the March 2015 conference, student teams from five institutions were selected to participate in the legislative hearings based on the quality of the letters they sent to their elected officials. The final five teams were chosen from letters that student teams sent to state and federal representatives. The finalists presented their issues to a panel of judges consisting of former elected officials: Carol Browner, Former EPA Administrator; former U.S. Congressman Thomas Downey (D-NY); and the Honorable Edwina Richardson-Mendelson.

The Rhodes College team of Alexandra Dileo and Samuel Holder won the hearing for their "Letter in Support of Net Neutrality by Reclassifying Internet Service as a Public Utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934," which they sent to Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). The pair urged Senator Isakson to safeguard net neutrality by supporting the reclassification of internet service as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Their letter was very timely and, subsequent to their writing, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did move to reclassify internet service.

Rhodes will receive a $3,000 award to develop an advocacy campaign and we are looking forward to working with them on issues related to internet access. The four finalist teams will each receive a $500 award also to be used to develop an advocacy campaign to move their issue forward. This is the first time that Occidental College and Rhodes College were represented in the finals. Descriptions of the five finalist letters are available here.

Since the first competition in 2008, many teams have traveled to Washington, D.C. or their state capitals to meet with members of Congress and their staff.

2015 Debating for Democracy (D4D) National Conference, March 19-20, The New School in New York City.

2013 Debating for Democracy (D4D) National Conference, March 21-22, The New School in New York City.

2012 Debating for Democracy (D4D) National Conference, March 22-23, The New School in New York City.

2011 Debating for Democracy (D4D) National Conference, March 24-25, Pace University in New York City.

2010 Debating for Democracy (D4D) National Conference,  April 8-9, 2010, The New School in New York City.

Project Pericles appreciates the generous support of the Eugene M. Lang Foundation for the D4D National Conferences.


Additional Information on the D4D on the Road™ Workshops:

Through D4D on the Road™ workshops, advocacy experts empower participants and prepare them to work within the democratic processes to improve the condition of society. Workshop attendees learn core advocacy skills that can be applied to a variety of issues and situations, including media strategies, stakeholder identification, relationship and ally building, pending legislation analysis, and strategic planning. Participants identify new strategies for making change on a particular issue or cause, practice developing and delivering an effective advocacy message, and build relationships to support and sustain their work.

Workshops are hosted on Periclean campuses around the country and draw students from the host campus and neighboring Periclean campuses as well as other local colleges and universities. Community members, faculty, and staff also participate. Christopher Kush and Soapbox Consulting facilitated the 2012-2013 workshops. Soapbox is a leading provider of training seminars, workshops, and lobby days for many national associations. The 2013-2014 workshops were facilitated by Naomi Long and Mattie Weiss from Wellstone Action. In these highly interactive workshop, participants learned core skills that they could apply immediately to causes they are passionate about.

Seiji Carpenter and John Gilbert will lead the 2014-2015 workshops. Both trainers have extensive experience mobilizing students and community members around a variety of issues. The workshops build on the curriculum refined during previous years. Utilizing a series of dynamic exercises, participants will learn strategies for developing effective messages, critically analyzing the opposition's messages, and the importance of thoroughly understanding their target audiences.    

Project Pericles appreciates the generous support of the Eugene M. Lang Foundation and our Periclean colleges and universities for the 2014-2015 D4D on the Road workshops. Previous years' workshops were sponsored by The Henry Luce Foundation and the Spencer Foundation.