The Plain Dealer: It's a rematch! Debate powerhouses square off in city championships at high noon

University School senior Victor Mezacsapa and Laurel School senior Lisa Peng compete in last year's finals of the City Club high school debate championship. The two have a rematch in this year's finals at noon today.
The Plain Dealer
By Patrick O'Donnell

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Lisa Peng has a big challenge today.

The Laurel School senior will try to break two impressive streaks when she takes onUniversity School senior Victor Mezacapa in the final and deciding round of the City Club debate championships at noon.

Mezacapa, of Mentor, is a two-time defending champion in the event, first taking the title in 2012 as a sophomore and then beating Peng herself in the finals last year. He's seeking a three-peat and to extend the University School's debate dynasty.

University School has won the event the last six years.

Peng won't be intimidated. As formidable a foe as Mezacapa is, she has taken on a far more serious opponent for real-life stakes, not just debating bragging rights. Born in China, her family fled the country when she was four. Her father has been held as a political prisoner since 2004 when he was kidnapped at gunpoint while trying to establish a safe haven for persecuted refugees in Thailand.

In December, Peng, of Shaker Heights, testified at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing to call attention to the Chinese government's imprisonment and mistreatment of political prisoners.

Peng also wrote about the case for The Plain Dealer last summer.

While today's debate won't have any immediate real-world implications, it's a serious one.

Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.

Last year, the two dueled over the resolved: The United States is justified in intervening in the internal political processes of other countries to attempt to stop human rights abuses.

See last year's debate HERE.

The debate is of the Lincoln-Douglas format. The two will each present an argument for their side of the issue, with opportunities for rebuttal and cross-examination.

Here are the short biographies that each of the two finalists provided for the event:

Victor A. Mezacapa IV

Victor Mezacapa is a senior at University School in Hunting Valley. He has competed in Lincoln-Douglas debates throughout his four years in high school, has served as captain of his Lincoln-Douglas debate team for two years, and currently serves as the head captain of Speech and Debate at US. Victor has competed at the state tournament in debate for four consecutive years, finishing runner-up and champion in his junior and senior years, respectively. He will also return to the National Forensic League’s national tournament in debate this year, competing for his third and final time.

Academically, Victor has broad interests. A lover of language, he has studied Latin, French, and Ancient Greek while he has worked to improve his communication skills in English. This year, he took a survey course in philosophical and applied ethics, world religions, and conflict resolution. Victor also works with a local company that specializes in fiber optics. When he is not working during the summer, he enjoys traveling with his family.

Lisa Peng

Lisa Peng, a senior at Laurel School, is in her third year as a Lincoln-Douglas debater. She is the District Champion in Lincoln-Douglas debate and the District Student of the Year. In addition, Lisa is a three-time state qualifier, two-time state quarterfinalist, and two-time national qualifier. In June, she will debate at the National Forensics League national tournament in Kansas City.

Through her participation in Lincoln-Douglas debate, Lisa has developed an understanding of morality and justice that has served as the foundation of her advocacy work for human rights in China. This past year, she testified before a U.S. Congressional Hearing, the EU Parliament, and the Taiwan Parliament. In April, Lisa will speak on this topic at TEDxCLE 2014.

At school, Lisa is interested in studying economics and history. She is a National AP Scholar and is president of Laurel’s Student Government. Aside from academics, Lisa enjoys playing piano and studying music theory. She is the keyboardist of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (COYO) and performs at Severance Hall, local schools, and community centers as pianist in COYO’s Piano Trio. On the weekends, Lisa enjoys taking family walks. This summer, she hopes to study Chinese in Taiwan.