Turn on the news nowadays, said Sam Casey, and we see violent protests in response to invited speakers with opinions not shared by those who protest. The college-aged protestors represent a culture of violent rebellion, unwilling even to listen to views of those with whom they don’t agree, said the La Vernia High School alumnus.
“This is a disturbing narrative that’s playing out all over the country and the reality of the world we live in,” Sam said.
He’s witnessed a similar trend closer to home, which spurred him to create an opportunity for dialogue.
The debate regarding countywide EMS and taxes has played out on Facebook and in the community, Sam said.
“I was concerned with the example we were setting,” he said. “I thought of the direction our country is going and realized what’s happening at Berkeley and NYU doesn’t have to happen here in Wilson County. ... we are capable of civil debate, free from personal attacks, mudslinging, fear-mongering, conducted with decorum and respect.”
Area residents will have the opportunity to witness a debate between two sides of the proposed countywide emergency medical services plan on Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. in the La Vernia Intermediate School cafeteria. The event will benefit the La Vernia High School debate team, which is headed to national competition in Chicago. (See “Get tickets” for information.)
“... this will help supplement their budget for that trip -- La Vernia has always been community first, and this shines a positive light on the commitment and growth of these students.”
This debate will answer some fundamental questions about our community, Sam said:
ĽAre we capable of constructive debate?
ĽAre we capable of disagreeing respectfully?
ĽAre we willing to stand up for that which we are passionate about and defend that without sacrificing our common values of dignity, honor, and respect?
Participants are Brian Burnside, CEO of Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville, which has proposed a countywide EMS plan, capitalized by a tax-rate increase; and Carter Thomas, representing the Wilson County Strategic Planning Group, which is proposing an alternative route to EMS coverage in the county. La Vernia EMS President Paul Brunner was invited to represent the strategic group, Sam said, “after a huge push from the community; it’s very clear they want to hear from him at the debate.” As of press time, Brunner had not accepted.
Sam has pored through social media and newspapers and spoken to people, to determine the fundamental differences between those “for” and “against” the two sides of the debate.
“Both sides have been gracious,” he said, and are excited to be part of the debate.
It’s not been without its challenges.
He’s had phone calls at 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. and received more than 100 private messages on Facebook -- “some with questions, some with support, some who want me to know they don’t like me.”
Finding a venue, promotion, and getting both sides to agree on the topics have been challenging, “but ... it’s come together very well!” Sam said.
Both sides selected their own representatives. Though there’s been jockeying with regard to topics and questions, Sam made a point from the start that this is for the people.
“They will ultimately decide the questions and there’s an agreement that the top items are services, service quality, and taxes,” he said.
Debate Team Coach Noah Recker has been a fantastic resource, Sam said, adding that three members of the debate team will act as moderators and the team will help with the logistics on the day.
Questions will comprise those submitted by the community through wilsoncountydebate.com; email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both sides were invited to submit up to 12 questions they would like asked. They will receive the final questions prior to the debate, Sam said.
Through this effort, Sam hopes both sides will hold each other accountable, that the community and electorate will be more informed, and the debate team will have some well-deserved and well-earned exposure, along with the funds raised to support their efforts.
“I hope the LVHS Debate gains more recognition for the work they’ve put in,” Sam said. “They research, study, practice, and then travel and represent this community with the same commitment to excellence as our student-athletes -- and they’ve done so well already this year, that I hope we can rally behind them and their example and support them this year and in the future.”
Sam, a resident of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, holds a Master of Science in recreation, event, and sports management, and a Bachelor of Science in sports management. He has worked in youth and intercollegiate athletics, professional sports, and in the private sector. He was a candidate for a seat on the Denton City Council.
Still seeking more information regarding the proposed countywide EMS program or the Wilson County Memorial Hospital District tax rollback election? If so, plan now to attend a debate Monday, March 6, at 7 p.m. at La Vernia Intermediate School.
University of North Texas graduate Sam Casey, a La Vernia High School alumnus, has created this opportunity for area residents to hear from two people representing aspects of the emergency medical services in the county. Brian Burnside, CEO of Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville, and Carter Thomas, a member of the strategic planning group and hospital rollback political action group.
The event will be moderated by members of the La Vernia High School debate team under the supervision of teacher Noah Recker, as a fundraiser for the team, which is headed to national competition in Chicago.
Registration is free; a $5 donation is due at the door. Seating is limited.
Register online at wilsoncountydebate.com. Submit questions for this event to email@example.com.