EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 21, 2011

Danville man is a debating star

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

DANVILLE — There's no debating the fact Daniel Hanson is one of the best at what he does.

The 21-year-old college student from Danville recently competed in the World Universities Debating Championships in Botswana, Africa.

It's the largest debate tournament in the world, featuring approximately 320 teams from 40 countries, including 65 teams from the United States.

Hanson, a senior at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and partner Alex Pepper of Virginia finished 86th, considered a significant achievement, according to associate professor Steven Jones, the group's adviser.

"It was a great experience," said Hanson, who graduated from Calvary Christian School in Derry.

While finishing in the top 150 is excellent, coming in where they did was especially gratifying, he said.

"It's something pretty difficult to do," Hanson said.

Although any college debating team can enter the competition, they have to be highly skilled to make it past the first of nine preliminary rounds held over three days, Jones said. The top 32 teams then advance to a championship bracket. Another team from Grove City finished 132nd. The winning team was from Monash University of Australia.

Jones, who has advised the team for two decades, said Hanson is among the cream of the crop in the debating world.

"He is among the two or three brightest students I've ever encountered," he said. "He knows a lot about everything, but has a great degree of theoretical knowledge."

Debaters must be able to tackle any topic thrown their way and present clear, persuasive arguments. The topics at the championship included everything from whether Zimbabwe should be invaded to whether central banks should set limits on government spending, Hanson said.

"There is no good way to prepare," he said. "It's difficult to anticipate what can be asked at the world championship."

While his usual debate partner was a high school national champion, Hanson didn't become interested in debating until college. He has some ideas about why he became so successful.

"Having a lot of siblings helps," said the youngest of five. "There is a lot of argumentation on that front."

Participating in a top-notch college debate program and having a supportive family also helps, he said.

Doug Hanson, his father, said the family is proud of what his son has accomplished.

"To go to that level is amazing," he said. "He is like a walking encyclopedia. We're looking forward to what the future has for him."

When he graduates from Grove City this spring, Hanson intends to attend graduate school, working toward his goal of becoming a policy analyst. He has applied to nine schools, and is waiting to hear where he will be accepted.

He only gets a chance to come home during school breaks. He spent last summer working for the federal government in Washington. But his career path will lead him far away from the Granite State.

"There isn't very much international policy analysis in Southern New Hampshire," he said.

• • •

Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.