For the first time since the inception of the Lafayette Debates, a team composed of only women clinched the victory. On April 8, Leandra Lopez and Julia Lynch, top debaters representing the University of Miami, defeated the team from France’s École de Guerre to win the annual debate tournament held at the French Embassy in Washington D.C. As tournament champions, Lopez and Lynch, were awarded a Young Ambassadors study tour of Paris sponsored by the French Embassy. 

Lopez and Lynch were also recognized among the top 10 speakers in the competition. Lopez is a senior from Miami majoring in Political Science and minoring in Communication Studies. Lynch is a sophomore from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, majoring in Legal Studies and Finance and minoring in Political Science. As one of the top five teams in competition, the University of Miami received a bye into the quarterfinal round of the tournament where they defeated the team from Cornell. In Semifinals, UM won its debate over the top seeded United States Military Academy before facing École de Guerre in finals.

During the summer, Lopez and Lynch will visit Paris as part of The Young Ambassadors Program, an annual study tour to Paris awarded to tournament champions on which the debaters continue their exploration of the year’s topic firsthand in discussions with French diplomats, politicians, academics and other French thought-leaders. During the tour, the tournament champions serve as “young ambassadors” for their country. Afterward, the debaters are inducted into the Young Ambassadors Alumni Network to promote ongoing transatlantic dialogue and networking.

As part of winning the Lafayette Debates, the University of Miami will have on display a traveling trophy symbolizing the deep and longstanding relationship between the United States and France, the elegantly framed map, Carte Réduite Des Côtes Orientales De L’Amérique (1778). The 235 year-old map of colonial America was issued to the French Navy and merchant marines during the American Revolution. This map locates the city of “York”, also known as Yorktown, which, soon after the map was issued, was the scene of the French naval blockade that was the immediate cause of the surrender of Cornwallis and the end of the Revolution. 

The Lafayette Debates is an annual civic debate series sponsored by the Embassy of France to the United States and George Washington University. This year’s topic focused on the 1968 Paris Revolt & General Strike and the closing statement was delivered by a judge who was a student in Paris at the time and intimately involved with the student civil disobedience that sparked the nationwide strike.

The Lafayette Debates is organized by the Higher Education Departments of the French Embassies to the United States in partnership with The George Washington University. The tournament seeks to promote international civil society and enduring relations between the United States and France by engaging tomorrow’s leaders today on the opportunities and challenges facing our rapidly globalized world. A core feature of The Lafayette Debates is the unique dialogue that emerges not only between the competing students, but also between the students and the French and U.S. professionals, scholars, soldiers, diplomats, and others serving as judges for the competitions. This dialogue is continued on the Young Ambassadors study tour to Paris on which tournament champions explore the Lafayette Debates topic in conversations with leading French officials, academics, and topic experts.

The Lafayette Debates tradition began in 1824 during the hero’s tour to the United States of General Marquis de Lafayette and his son, George Washington Lafayette. During the tour, General Lafayette and his son attended a meeting of the debate and literary society of the Columbian College and the Lafayette Debates became an annual tradition at the college, which later changed its name to the George Washington University. The Lafayette Debates were revived in 2013. Previous tournament winners include Loyola Marymount University, Emory, the University of Michigan, Stanford, and Morehouse College. 

For more information about the Lafayette Debates, visit  To learn more about UM Debate, visit UM Debate is a co-curricular activity sponsored by the University of Miami School of Communication. The program is directed by Director of Debate David L. Steinberg and Assistant Director of Debate Patrick Waldinger.  Participation is open to any full time UM undergraduate student.