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In the movie The Great Debaters, what does this quote mean?"who is the judge? The judge...

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In the movie The Great Debaters, what does this quote mean?

"who is the judge? The judge is god...Why is he god? Because he decides who wins or loses not my opponent ...Who is your opponent ? He does not exist....Why doesnt he exist? Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the truth i speak !!"

Why does tolson make his students repeatedly say this? Claim?

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akannan's profile pic

Posted (Answer #1)

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Professor Tolson seeks to get his debaters to understand that they are not competing against an opponent.  Rather, they are competing against a higher level of argumentation that transcends their opponent.  In this light, Tolson is trying to get his debaters to understand that they must be arguing and competing on a much more elevated level, one that appeals to the intrinsic natures of rhetoric, argumentation, and analysis.  Tolson seeks to impart to his students/ rhetoricians that their opponent is secondary to the larger configuration of debate, and, perhaps, secondary to themselves.  This mentality allows them to not be overwhelmed by debating at Harvard and facing the members of that debate team.

ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

Posted (Answer #2)

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I am going to go a bit further than the previous answer and say that the key is the very last three words (and punctuation):  "the truth I speak!"  What this means is that a debater must believe, ... further, ... must KNOW that the words he speaks are the truth (no matter WHAT the debate is about).  There are no other sides.  There is only a "dissenting voice," which is not a true opponent. 

Now we must go even further and realize the CONTEXT of this speech.  The debate coach, Melvin Tolson, must lead his African American team to victory, ... in the aftermath of the Civil War reconstruction:  the 1930s.  At the time, the African American fear of white people was very, very real.  Lynchings (and other hate crimes) were common. 

The African Americans of Tolson's debate team, then, were actually AFRAID of their opponents for their own safety as well as the muted (and erroneous) fear that whites were better than blacks, even at debating.  This was Tolson's attempt at getting rid of that fear.  God:  the only judge.  Truth:  the only winner.


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