Since 1925, the National Forensic League has provided meaningful recognition and support for high school and middle school students desiring to excel in speech and debate. While our organization has evolved over the decades, our mission is perhaps more relevant today than ever before. Our students develop an aptitude for critical thought, careful listening and thorough research that culminates in a reasoned, evidence-based point of view, presented in an engaging and convincing manner. These skills are vital both to individual success in the modern world and to the ability of society to address the issues that affect our nation and the world.
85+ Years of Commitment
1925: Bruno E. Jacob, of Ripon College in Wisconsin, founds the National Forensic League as a non-for-profit educational honor society to motivate high school students to participate in and build proficiency in speech, debate, and performance.
1931: First National Tournament held at Ripon College, with 49 schools from 17 states in attendance.
1933: The Great Depression doesn’t hinder growth: school membership reaches 400 chapters and CBS radio carries the championship debate.
1942: World War II forced the League to suspend the National Tournament, except for the Student Congress, commended in a letter by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1947: The National Tournament returns with 96 contestants from 22 states. The National Association of Secondary School Principals began endorsing the tournament.
1969: 300,000 members have been enrolled.
1982: National debate winners awarded a $2,000 scholarship from Who’s Who Among American High School Students.
1991: The Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership begins its sponsorship and programming for the National Student Congress.
1995: National Junior Forensic League founded to serve the middle school level.
1996: Lincoln Financial Group begins its longstanding sponsorship of League activities.
1998: Kaiser Family Foundation sponsors the Barbara Jordan Youth Debates on Health for urban debaters.
2000: The League celebrates one million members enrolled
2005: $1.5 million in contributions have been made by Lincoln Financial Group since beginning sponsorship.
2007: A Code of Honor is established to emphasize the importance of respect, honor, leadership, service, and integrity.
2010: The National Service Project is introduced, which results in National Tournament participants packaging 525,960 meals to send to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
2012: The League introduces a refreshed brand, renewing our commitment to be a catalyst for transformative teen expression.
Click here for a detailed history of the National Forensic League.
Click here for a comprehensive timeline of the development of the National Forensic League.