Thursday, October 28

Albert Rivera returns from jury to the university debate league where it all began

It was not going to be a political speech, because officially he no longer dedicates himself to that, but there are questions, entrenched, to which Albert Rivera always returns. “Some populists do not like that there are ‘evil’ companies that sponsor things,” said the former leader of Ciudadanos, now a member of the Martínez-Echavarría & Rivera law firm. Indeed, the law firm to which it gives its name, together with the Santander bank, Telefónica, the consulting firm EY, the multinational packaging company Smurfit Kappa or Coca-Cola, among others, sponsored this year the Spanish League of University Debate, in whose phase In the end, 14 universities in the country participated, many of them public. In the final assault, on Sunday at the MIRA theater in Pozuelo de Alarcón, the University of Alcalá beat the University of Salamanca. “The world needs people like you, although there is more talk about the bottles and the trash. I would dare to say that whoever is going to lead the youth of this country is more like you than those who are unbelievers or destroy our society ”, ventured Rivera, president of the jury, before announcing the winners.

The debating league has only had nine editions. From 2007 to 2019 it was on hold, and last year it returned in telematic format due to the Covid crisis. In 2001, in the second edition, the champion had been the Ramón Llull University, with Albert Rivera in the team. “It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life,” recalled the now businessman of the legal profession this Sunday in Pozuelo, where he explained that it was in that forum where he began to take tables to speak in public without disheveled. Later he would get together, romantically, with “a group of crazy people who put on a game.”

The Councilor for Education of Pozuelo, Eva Cabello, had appealed in her speech prior to the contest, in one stroke and without many details, to the rhetorical tradition of Socrates, Demosthenes and the improvement [moral] of Cicero. Perhaps a bit excessive references for the Pozuelo competition, where the question to settle was whether or not Spain is “preparing for a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable digitization”.

The eight young students (four per team), had prepared the subject very well and were seen to be skillful, loose and eloquent despite their nerves, with which it is possible to venture that, probably, they had not been in a bottle the day before. Everyone was very well dressed, and even among the seats there was a little joke about Rivera’s ‘sport’ style, with jeans and sports shoes. “Next year I come in a tracksuit,” mused a member of the team from the University of Extremadura, already eliminated.

University debates have the peculiarity that one has to defend the position that touches him, whether he agrees or not. In general, it does not go into philosophical questions; It also does not give time: interventions are priced and spending even a few seconds of the shift subtracts points. Non-verbal language, mastery of the scene, and good manners are essential. The participants, in suits, ceremoniously thanked each other at each turn, during the replies and when asking questions to put the rivals in a bind.

The parable of the cake

Those from Alcalá won, who correctly defended, in the opinion of the jury, a parable according to which digitizing society is not the same as making a cake. The knockouts abounded: Digital transformation is like a lottery, said one of the boys, pulling a ticket out of his pocket to prop up the phrase. And on the final shift, the manager removed an egg from his jacket (going back to the cake) that should be liquid, but surprisingly hard. Check.

The losing team had opted, in turn, for the anecdote of the Hungarian mathematician Abraham Wald, who calculated how to minimize damage to Allied bomber planes during World War II, taking into account not only those who returned to base, but those who did not. they came back. From there they went on to the need to bridge the digital divide. There was a statistical war, with figures from the Government, the CEOE, the EU or the UGT flying in both directions. The participants made clear and concise gestures, looked the audience and opponents in the eye, and spoke at full speed with almost no language slipping. For the rest, there were no references to the starting structural conditions. Not a trace, as one might foresee from the ‘sponsors’, of dialectical materialism. One of the speakers of the winning team dared to say, without much repercussion, that “depending on 27 countries makes us weak”, a brief amendment to the nature of European Next Generation funds. Also, that “investing in renewables” makes electricity more expensive, without this giving rise to a historical review of the Spanish electricity system or the figure of the Count of Fenosa and other heroes.

“Ambitious people are very frowned upon”

This form of oral discussion, with all its benefits, can remind us, if you think wrong, of a convention of advertising travelers who gloss over the qualities of their products with a touch of imposture that is accepted as inherent to the activity. Rivera did not contribute to blur this feeling when, in his speech, he appealed to another intervention that in the last 15 years has been a reference for all the gurus of business motivation and individualistic thinking: the speech of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, at Stanford University in 2005, with his exhortations not to “lose hunger” and be a little giddy. “The world needs people who take risks […] Ambitious people, who in this country is very bad [vista]Rivera agreed, delighted with what he had just seen. “Be leaders,” he said. The around 200 attendees erupted in applause.

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