The decision to inject humor into the world of opinion with my lighthearted column last week proved that plenty of people would rather fight than laugh.
But that's OK. For now, let's try a new tact.
As a high school student in the 1970s, I had the pleasure of winning what was then called the National Bicentennial Debate Championship. For the years -- too many years, in fact -- that the nation celebrated America's 200th birthday, the debate championship was held in historic Williamsburg, Virginia.
Those years of debating were fun, and also, they thrust me into the first stages of a career as an attorney and then an elected official.
Readers of this column know that once I took on the job of interpreting public opinion, I stopped arguing for only my own opinions, and instead began working hard to fairly and accurately interpret and contextualize the opinions of you, the public.
In so doing, I've learned a lot, including the fact that there is no shortage of bright minds out there, or of strong opinions.
So let's have a debate, you and I. Here's your chance to wind up and let me have it -- to show me up.
Here are the rules:
1. You must oppose the statement I'll write in the first segment of my topic offering. Let's call this opening segment of the column the PROPOSITION.
2. You must then provide arguments, supported by factual evidence, that refute each of the POINTS that follow my proposed PLAN to solve the problem set forth in the proposition.
3. All this should aim to demonstrate why my plan is a bad one. If you like, feel free to conclude with "counterplan," as the hefty jargon of debate would phrase it.
Responses must not exceed 450 words.
Entries must be e-mailed no later than 4 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, May 3. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The winning response will appear in this column two weeks from now.
The winner also will receive a signed copy of one of my books. That and 25 cents might or might not gain you admission to the public library. But hey, it's a nice gesture for someone who's a former debate champion, but who's just been waxed by your forensic prowess (more debate jargon).
Here's the first debate topic:
PROPOSITION: Oil companies should have their practices and prices regulated by government, just as most utilities are regulated.
POINT ONE: Prices and profits are rising.
Source: Bloomberg News Service, April 24: "As the price of crude oil has climbed, hitting a record $73.35 a barrel…the combined profits (of five of the biggest oil companies) topped $111 billion."